State News

Young bears are released back to the wild

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department successfully released several young orphaned bears back into the wild after a short stay with a wildlife rehabilitator. The cubs had shown up malnourished in residential areas earlier this spring.

Working in partnership with New Hampshire Fish & Game, the young bears were brought back to health by bear rehabilitators Ben and Phoebe Kilham in Lyme, N.H. The bears were released in southern Vermont at one of Fish & Wildlife’s large wildlife management areas.

Forrest Hammond, Vermont’s lead bear biologist, thanked the Vermont residents who alerted wildlife officials to the presence of the cubs in distress. “We are grateful when concerned citizens report these bears to their local warden, rather than attempting to handle a wild animal themselves. People mistakenly think that young animals are in distress and in need of rescue and they sometimes intervene directly, putting their safety and that of the animal at risk,” he said.

“In most situations, animals do best when they remain in the wild,” he added. “However, in rare instances we do come across an orphaned bear that trained wildlife professionals are able to help. We hope that these bears remain in the woods and continue to live as wild bears.”

Hammond distinguishes orphaned juvenile bears from “problem bears” that have been repeatedly lured by human foods until they develop bad behaviors. There are no rehabilitation facilities or zoos that are willing to take a bear once it becomes a problem animal, so he urges people to avoid leaving out attractants such as bird feeders or garbage that can cause bears to associate people with food. He also urges residents to secure backyard chicken coops and bee hives with electric fencing to avoid attracting bears.

“It’s nearly impossible to relocate or rehabilitate a bear once it associates humans with food,” Hammond noted. “We get hundreds of bear complaints a year and, while we work to find a resolution that benefits all concerned, it sometimes can have fatal consequences for the bear. It’s up to all of us to change our behavior and remove any potential bear attractants from our yards so that young bears like these can live a wild and natural life.”

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Photo courtesy of Tom Rogers, Vt Fish & Wildlife

A young orphaned bear heads for the woods after a short stay in a rehabilitation facility.

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