Local News

Human interaction with bears is on the rise, wildlife officials say

Photo by Gillian Stippa
By Katie Jickling, VTDigger.org

There has been an uptick in the number of black bear sightings in the past few weeks, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department reports.
Mark Scott, Director of Wildlife, estimated that the department has received “a couple dozen” calls from all over the state. In all those instances, he said, bears have discovered a place to feed.

“People don’t quite understand the ramifications of leaving food out near their backyards,” Scott said. Bird feeders, open trash containers, animal feed, a compost pile or garden can all be sufficiently attractive to entice a bear to come wandering up to houses, he said. And when a bear finds a spot to feed, it often returns again and again.

“Our phones have been ringing constantly the last couple of weeks with calls from people asking what to do about a bear that has been visiting their yard,” said Col. David LeCours, Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s director of law enforcement, in a news release. “The first thing we tell them is to identify and remove whatever is attracting the bears.”

Scott attributed the increase to several converging/confluent factors. “Ten years ago, we never had this many bear running around,” he said.
There are more black bears these days, he said, noting that the Department of Fish and Wildlife increased the hunting season five days to keep the population in check. More people are also reporting their bear encounters.

If a bear is seen near a home, stay near the house, bang some pots and pans to scare it away, Scott advised. Bears are inherently shy and prefer to avoid human contact.

Occasionally, Scott said, the feeding by homeowners is intentional. The department issues citations to persons who feed bears and will press charges.

In the meantime, the department will work to minimize conflict between bears and humans.

“The best approach we’ve had is neighbors talking to neighbors to solve these problems,” he said.

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