New State Law Works to Keep Vermont’s Bears Wild

I received an email from Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and thought that this was a great article to share with everyone. 

New State Law Works to Keep Vermont’s Bears Wild

By John Hall, Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife

 Feeding bears nearly always ends tragically for the bear. Feeding a bear alters its relationship with humans. It now views human encounters and settlements as opportunities to find food. Once a bear learns that this is a successful strategy, it is nearly impossible to change that behavior. These bears lose their fear of people, will seek out human homes and encampments and become a danger. Fed bears nearly always end up being destroyed. H.101 (Act 78) An act relating to hunting, fishing, and trapping, endeavors to remedy this. One of the key components of this “housekeeping legislation” has to do with Vermont’s black bears.

 The new law prohibits feeding bears. It also requires that, under most circumstances, anyone taking a nuisance bear must first attempt reasonable non-lethal measures to protect their own property. And, it repeals a requirement that the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department reimburse a claimant who is not a farmer for damage by bears to livestock or bees. A farmer can still be reimbursed as long as his or her land is not posted against hunting.

 An existing law also prohibits a person from killing a bear that has been attracted to any artificial bait or food such as bird seed.

 ”We are receiving reports from all across the state of bears seeking food at bird feeders, bee hives, chicken coops and other sources,” said State Wildlife Biologist Forrest Hammond.

 ”People can help by removing any food sources that may tempt the bears. We also recommend using electrical fencing to protect bee hives and chickens from hungry bears and using noise-making devices to scare off bears that come near houses.”

 ”These animals are smart and are easily attracted to birdfeeders. Bears can gradually lose their fear of people and begin going from house to house looking for more goodies,” added Hammond. “It doesn’t take long in these situations before a bear gets so comfortable around people that it causes property damage or begins to be seen as a potential threat to people in surprise encounters. When the department has to choose between the safety of people and the safety of bears, bears will always lose.”

 ”Don’t leave pet food outside, wash down your barbecues after using them, and secure your garbage containers,” he added.

 Hammond says that although rare, there have been incidents in which people were injured by bears that lost their fear of people while finding food near homes.

“We care about these bears as much as anyone,” he said. “Having to destroy one that has become a threat to human safety is heart rending, and yet we know that moving them to another location doesn’t change their behavior. They continue to seek food near people because they have learned that it works. Vermont has a healthy, wild population of black bears. People can help keep bears and other wildlife from becoming a problem by making sure there are no food sources that will tempt bears.”

To learn more, check out the “Living with Black Bears” section of Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) or use this quick link: http://tinyurl.com/n6eg8n6

For the full text of H.101 (Act 78) An act relating to hunting, fishing, and trapping, go here: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2014/Acts/ACT078.pdf

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