Steamboat Springs Last summer's winged nightmare isn't a bad memory yet.
Tuesday's rain showers and milder temperatures need to stick around until early June to bring the grasshopper population back to normal levels, said C.J. Mucklow, director of the Routt County Cooperative Extension Office.
If a cold, damp spring doesn't pan out, a plan is in the works to handle a grasshopper outbreak this summer.
The extension office met with landowners and subdivision homeowners last week to finalize a strategy to keep grasshoppers in check. The county began meeting with the public in October to come up with the best approach to controlling the pests. No state or federal funds are available for fighting grasshoppers, so private resources are the only option.
Wednesday's meeting cemented plans to pool residents' dollars to subsidize the purchase and spraying of pesticides.
More than 100 landowners have agreed to collectively commit more than $10,000 to the control program. Mucklow expects the number could grow as more people sign on to the program, which he described as an unofficial pest district.
The threshold for pesticide treatment is 15 to 25 grasshopper per square yard, Mucklow said. Last summer, counts showed 100 to 200 grasshoppers in the infested areas of Routt County. At such levels, grasshoppers simply devour entire pastures and fields, Mucklow said.
Combining individual efforts is more effective and less expensive than people going it alone, Mucklow said.
That's why the county concentrated on getting landowners in the Steamboat II, Silver Spur and Heritage Park subdivisions to go along with the program.
Homeowners' associations, metro and water districts that serve the three subdivisions are looking at ways to subsidize spraying lawns and gardens.
Landowners in such areas as the Old Carver Ranch, Deer Mountain and Elk River estates and along County Road 52 and Twentymile Road have contributed $100 toward the pool.
Other participants with larger parcels are putting in 50 cents for every acre of land up to 500 acres.
Mucklow stressed that dollars spent on spraying for grasshoppers in a certain area of the county will originate from people in that particular area.
Money contributed by landowners along Twentymile Road, for example, would pay for pesticides used along Twentymile Road.
Grasshoppers swelled last summer thanks to a warm, dry spring that protected eggs. By the time county officials realized the size of the grasshopper outbreak, it was too late to stop the pests.
If future weather patterns mimic Tuesday's conditions and grasshopper numbers stay at bay, the county may not have to tap the growing pool of money intended for grasshopper control.
In that case, Mucklow said, residents would get their money back.
"We might not be doing anything," he said.
Anyone who wishes to join the unofficial pest district should call the County Extension Office at 879-0825.