The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is studying how the construction and operation of wind turbines in the Green Mountain National Forest affects local bears. This is the first wind energy development proposal within a national forest nationwide. The study will help inform future wind energy developments that are proposed in bear habitat.
What are the goals of the study?
The primary goal is to better understand habitat use to help conserve bears.
The department (VFWD) wants to know if bears will change their use of the beech stands surrounding the proposed site for the Deerfield Wind Project after the turbines are in place. This requires us to understand how bears use the area before the wind farm is in operation and compare their use of the area after it is built and in operation
Is the goal to use collared bears as representatives of the population?
Yes, through the use of statistics wildlife researchers are able to gain an understanding of what is happening to a larger population by studying a smaller representative sample. Because this study is looking at a relatively small area (the land to be developed for the wind farm) the sample of 12 to 15 bears is an adequate sample size. Maintaining this sample size throughout the course of the study is important and a strong reason for hunters to pass by collared bears.
Why is the department asking hunters not to harvest collared bears?
By allowing this small number of research bears to remain part of the study, VFWD can better learn about this population of bears. The information gained from these individual research animals will help biologists, managers, and the Vermont public better understand Vermont's bears and ultimately better conserve and manage them.
Additionally, VFWD uses bears as an umbrella species in our regulatory review process so benefits to understanding and managing bears trickle down to a large number of Vermont's wildlife species.
Does asking people not to harvest collared bears create a non-representative sample?
If the department was doing a population study instead of a habitat use study you would be correct. In population studies hunters are not asked to pass on study animals. However, because the department is looking at a habitat use question, asking hunters to pass on study animals does not bias our data.
Who is paying?
Iberdrola is paying for all of the study, not tax payers nor revenue from hunting and fishing licenses. However, Iberdrola has no involvement with the study other than putting forward the money to fund it. They have no role or interaction in the design, operation, and future analysis and interpretation of the data. This responsibility lies solely on the trained biologists who are carrying out the study.
The biologists involved are motivated only by the conservation and best management of Vermont's bears.
When will the department know more?
This is a long-term study so the main results (i.e., the impact of wind turbines on bears) will not be known until the project has been completed, but the department is collecting some more general results on bear habitat usage, movements and road crossing that will be available in the near future.
Who should I contact for more information?
To learn more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org