Front Range

Wine Thieves

Animals help themselves to Colorado grapes.

September 2013

Denverites aren’t the only ones who have developed a taste for Colorado Cabs and Rieslings: Each fall harvest, birds feast on the state’s 1,000 acres of vineyards, helping themselves to part of a $20 million retail industry. Robins and starlings are the primary culprits, destroying one to two percent of vineyards’ crops annually, according to Horst Caspari, professor and state viticulturist at Colorado State University’s Western Colorado Research Center in Grand Junction. That might seem insignificant, but Colorado’s vineyards are typically smaller than those in, say, California, thus magnifying the effect. To deter the bandits, growers install netting over rows of grapes. But some wineries have tried more creative methods. They’ve used speakers that emit the cries of birds of prey and taped balloons to posts in the vineyard in hopes that the fluttering objects would startle the birds (they didn’t). But birds aren’t the only oenophiles. Raccoons and bears occasionally stop by—at which point a warning shot is more effective than a net.

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