Many of us in Vermont do not look forward to the bear hunt that begins Sept. 1 and runs through mid-November. It’s one of the longest in the country. Vermont allows bears to be pierced with arrows, shot from trees, hunted with packs of hounds, just to name a few horrors. Females with cubs, and even the cubs themselves, may be hunted and killed.
Besides these obvious concerns, there is new research that looks at the activity of bear hunters, especially those with hounds, and how they impact overall bear behavior and health. These studies are largely ignored by fish and wildlife departments that endorse bear hunting.
For example, the Vermont hunting and hounding seasons overlap with the black bear’s vital period of hyperphagia, otherwise known as the time of year when bears are in a feeding frenzy to fatten up for winter denning. During this time, bears with unlimited resources may eat up to 20,000 calories per day. If bears don’t enter their dens in good physical condition, it may impact their ability to sustain pregnancy via a process known as delayed implantation.
A 2015 study by Stillfried et al, revealed that when the hunting season starts, bears decrease their foraging activity during the time of the day with the highest risk of being shot, forcing them to forage less efficiently at night and in areas with poorer berry quality. Additionally, nighttime foraging may not be as optimal due to decreased visibility, especially when it comes to soft-mast foods, which are an important part of the Vermont bear’s diet during this time. The variation in natural food availability already makes it hard for bears to eat enough during hyperphagia.
More respect and compassion needs to be shown towards these intelligent, majestic animals and that begins with banning bear hounding.