On December 4, 2019

UVM students study Killington’s bear conflicts

By Katy Savage

A group of University of Vermont students are trying to solve Killington’s bear problem.

Five UVM students attended the Killington Select Board meeting Nov. 19 to present a semester-long project they’ve worked on to understand human- bear conflicts throughout the state.

From 2016-2018 Killington had 39 bear conflicts—the second highest number of bear conflicts reported in the state, according to data from Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

The students sent a survey to Killington residents this fall. More than half of the 71 people that responded to the survey reported having a bear conflict.  Bears have broken into cars, homes and dumpsters in Killington. One bear even walked freely into North Star Lodge two years ago.

“We want to improve health and safety by minimizing bear conflict,” UVM student Alison Shwartz told the Select Board.

The students have created pamphlets to educate residents and second-homeowners. They’re also working with Casella Waste Systems to create bear-proof dumpsters with stickers that show people how to properly lock the dumpsters and dispose of trash.

The students, who are part of the environmental science program at UVM, worked on the project with Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

“It’s a much bigger effort than what this class is capable of, but this gets the ball rolling,” said Katherina Gieder, a biometrician from Vermont Fish and Wildlife, in a phone interview after the meeting.

Gieder said the department was “overrun” with bear conflict calls last year.

“Bears weren’t a problem 10 years ago,” she said. “This is a very recent phenomenon…we’re in a phase of trying things out.”

Gieder said that towns like Killington, which have a lot of tourists, have reported a higher number of bear conflicts.

“There are a lot of out-of-town visitors and they may not be aware they’re in an area where bears are present,” she said.

The students plan to work with the town to distribute the pamphlets to vacationers and second-homeowners.

“It gets some information out there,” Gieder said. “It’s also a way to test out some things and seeing what might work and what might not work.”

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