MONTPELIER, Vt. – Go on to almost any social media group site in Vermont, and you will likely find a recent discussion, including stunning pictures and videos, of black bears having their way with any barrier between them and the food they know is on the other side.
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John Hall at Vermont Fish and Wildlife reports that "high-risk bear conflicts such as home and vehicle entries are being reported more frequently this summer than in previous years," as bear incidents grew from 135 in 2011 to 650 in 2021. In 2022, over 700 incidents have been reported to date.
"Vermont's black bears are learning to connect humans and food, and becoming bolder," said wildlife biologist and Black Bear Project leader Jaclyn Comeau.
"The number one cause of this dangerous, escalating behavior is Vermonters failing to secure food sources that attract bears. Unfortunately, this failure is putting people and bears in danger."
Perhaps most alarming are the number of "high-risk" incidents, including bears breaking into homes, number two to three attempts per week around the state.
In addition, wardens have seen bears go beyond predictable targets like bird feeders and unsecured garbage cans to cars, sheds, garages, and homes. As a result, Fish and Wildlife is urging all Vermonters to be proactive in keeping bears from seeking food near people.
"Coexisting with our healthy bear population requires all Vermonters to remove potential sources of conflict before problems start," said Comeau.
"Preventing a conflict is much easier than resolving an ongoing conflict and is the safest option for both bears and people. Once a bear has learned truly high-risk behaviors like home entry, lethal control may be needed to protect human safety. No one wants to have to resort to that measure."
The department appreciates knowing about all bear incidents, which can be reported here.