Steamboat Springs Fields and lawns left bone-dry by drought and devoured by grasshoppers seem like a bad summer memory.
That's what county officials are afraid of.
"Out of sight, out of mind," said C.J. Mucklow, director of the Routt County Extension Office.
Mucklow hopes rural and subdivision homeowners, farmers and ranchers begin preparing now for another grasshopper infestation.
May is several months away, but it's not too early to start thinking about keeping next summer's grasshopper population in check, he said.
Routt County will need some additional resources to prevent the unwelcome winged visitors from destroying more fields and lawns next summer.
A local high school student's research is helping the county secure some of those resources.
Joe Pokay, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, presented his report to the Routt County Board of Commissioners Monday.
Pokay gathered information this fall about the damaging effects of drought and grasshoppers on agricultural and residential properties in the county. His data provides the numerical proof Routt County needs to convince potential funding sources that it merits outside help, Mucklow said.
"Now we have some data we can work with," he said. "It quantifies it for us."
Pokay surveyed farmers and ranchers to determine estimated losses to crop yields and pasture. The survey revealed that irrigated hay crops fared better than dry land hay crops. Grasshoppers do not attack well-irrigated areas with the same intensity.
"The drought definitely had a greater impact than the grasshoppers, but the grasshoppers sure got what was left," Mucklow said.
Farmers and ranchers reported losing 6 percent per acre of irrigated hay crop and 22 percent per acre of dry land hay crop to grasshoppers. When the drought was factored in, farmers and ranchers reported losing two-thirds of their dry land hay crop yield to grasshoppers.
The survey revealed grasshoppers destroyed about 21 percent of pasture. Insect infestation accounted for a 40 percent loss to pasture after the drought was factored in.
An estimated 114 grasshoppers were reported per square yard of pasture, in comparison with 185 grasshoppers reported per square yard of residential property.
Respondents in residential areas reported using an estimated $100 on chemicals to control the spread of grasshoppers.
Pokay's survey area comprised much of the county, stretching from north of Clark to south of Oak Creek and west of Hayden to Steamboat Springs.
The teenager's project was made possible through his Careers class, a course that offers high school students internship opportunities with local businesses.
Mucklow said the survey results would help the county get an early handle on grasshopper infestation this summer.
"If we wait until May then we'll be in trouble," he said. The County Extension Office is meeting with area homeowners' associations to look at possible solutions for preventing future outbreaks.
Grasshoppers swelled this summer thanks to a warm, dry spring that protected eggs.
By the time Routt County had realized the size of the grasshopper outbreak, it was too late to stop the pests.