State News

Avoid tempting bears by removing food sources

People love to see a black bear in its natural surroundings, but when a bear ventures into human territory, problems can occur.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife wardens and biologists are receiving reports of hungry bears getting into trash containers as well as raiding bird feeders, beehives and chicken houses.

“Human conflicts involving bears are increasing this spring,” said Chief Game Warden Jason Batchelder. “Vermont’s wardens are responding to events involving bears in search of easy calories. As with most wildlife conflicts, these can be easily avoided by taking steps to secure food sources and making them inaccessible to hungry bears.”

“People sometimes unintentionally encourage bears to come out of the forest by providing food,” says the department’s bear biologist, Forrest Hammond. “Once bears become used to these food sources and come into frequent human contact, people sometimes call them nuisance bears. But they are just being bears! It is nearly impossible to relocate a nuisance bear. Unfortunately, they frequently have to be put down.”

Some of the most common sources of food that attract bears are: bird feeders, barbecue grills, garbage, household trash containers, open dumpsters, pet food and campsites with accessible food and food wastes.

Purposely feeding a bear is not just bad for the bear, it’s also illegal in Vermont. Vermont law also states that residents must take reasonable measures to protect their property from bears before lethal force can be taken. Some of these measures include:

  • Keep chickens and honeybees secure within an electric fence or other bear-proof enclosure.
  • Never feed bears, deliberately or accidentally.
  • Feed pets indoors.
  • Do not feed birds April 1 through Nov. 30. Bringing feeders in at night doesn’t work, because of seed spilled on the ground.
  • Store trash in a secure place. Trash cans alone are not bear-proof.

Learn more about living with Vermont’s black bears on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website ( Fish & Wildlife also asks that any bear incidents be reported using a form on the website.

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