On March 13, 2024

Bears are becoming active earlier in the spring


VTF&W: Take steps now to prevent bear conflicts

 The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Dept.has begun to receive reports of bears coming out of their dens and is urging Vermonters to take steps now to prevent conflicts with bears over the spring and summer.

“Vermonters need to act to prevent bear conflicts now, even if they have never had a bear visit their property before,” said Jaclyn Comeau, the department’s bear biologist in a news release March 8. “Do not wait to take down your birdfeeders and bearproof your yard until a bear comes to visit.”

Bear incidents have been on the rise over the past several years. Officials believe this trend is a result of Vermont’s healthy black bear population learning to associate people with food over generations.

Shorter winters also mean that bears are emerging from their dens earlier in the spring. In recent years bear activity has begun in mid-March, roughly two weeks earlier than what is typically thought of as the start of bear aware season in northern New England.

“Mid-March is the time for Vermonters to take down our birdfeeders, make sure our garbage is secure, and protect our backyard chickens and bees with an electric fence,” said Comeau.  “This helps teach bears that our yards and neighborhoods are not good places to search for food. But, it will only work if everyone does their part.”
The department asks Vermonters to take the following proactive steps for coexisting with bears: 

Take down birdfeeders between mid-March and December

Store garbage in bear-resistant containers or structures; trash cans alone are not enough  

Follow the steps  for composting in bear country 

Use electric fences to keep chickens and honeybees safe 

Request a bear-resistant dumpster from your waste hauler 

Feed your pets indoors 

Never feed bears, deliberately or accidentally 

“Preventing bears from having access to human-related foods is key to successful coexistence with these long-lived and intelligent animals,” said Comeau.

VTF&W also asks Vermonters to submit reports of bears engaging in potentially dangerous behavior like targeting birdfeeders and garbage, feeding on crops or livestock, or investigating campgrounds. Reports can be submitted on the department’s Living with Black Bears web page. 

The data help biologists keep track of bear incidents and provide early interventions to head off conflicts. 

“At the end of the day, purposely feeding a bear is not just bad for the bear,” said Comeau. “It is also dangerous for you, it causes problems for your neighbors, and it is illegal. If bears are finding food on your property it is your responsibility to remove that attractant and report a problem before the situation escalates.”

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