Bears and krumpirica apples at stari laz

Prospekt Fauna, Interesting facts

Photo 1. Bear photographed at Stari Laz (Photo by Dario Štefančić)


Located between Mrkopalj and Ravna Gora, the village
of Stari Laz is known as a distinct frost pocket. In some micro locations
the temperature can drop to -30°C in the winter. Despite this, some varieties
of fruit trees do grow in Stari Laz, in particular an old apple variety
known locally as krumpirica (potato apple) because of its coarse, brownish-green
peel. Some varieties of plums also bear fruit here and, occasionally,
there is a good harvest of cherry plums (Prunus cerasifera), a plum that
is vulnerable to late frosts. Other fruit trees barely grow in Stari Laz.

Krumpirica apples begin to ripen in October, when they
fall from the trees to the ground where they continue to ripen. Because
of fermentation, the apples release a scent that attracts bears. In the
neighbouring yard next to my old homestead in Stari Laz, there is a lovely
krumpirica apple tree, at least 50 years old and reaching a height of
some ten metres. As it is very resistant and yields a lot of fruit, it
never has to be “sprayed” (Photo 2). While fresh krumpirica
apples are not very tasty because of their acidity (in the past, people
would place the apples inside a hay stack to make them softer and more
edible), they are very good when stewed or baked in a strudel. In October
of this year (2012), the fermenting fruit on the ground around my neighbour’s
tree lured a she-bear and her three one-year old cubs. I watched them
as they made their way to the tree; they came only at nighttime, never
before 10 p.m. and mostly after midnight. Cunningly, they avoided the
parts of the village where dogs lived. They also “paid a visit”
to my neighbour, climbing on his plum tree and breaking several branches.
They did not climb the krumpirica apple tree. Instead, they ate the fallen
fruit. Interestingly, they did not touch the ripe fruit of the climbing
strawberry plants.

M. R.

Photo 2. The fruit of the krumpirica apple tree in Stari Laz (Photo by
Dario Štefančić)