Bear Conflicts are Escalating in Vermont, Fish & Wildlife Department Urges Proactive Coexistence Steps

19 July 2022

High-risk bear conflicts such as home and vehicle entries are being reported more frequently this summer than in previous years, according to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. 

“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. This failure is putting people and bears in danger.”  

Bear incident reports to the department have been on the rise for a decade, from 135 reports in 2011 to 650 in 2021.  This year, over 700 reports have already been submitted.  

“We are receiving more bear incident reports, and more concerningly we are also receiving more reports of truly high-risk behavior by bears,” said Comeau.  “In a typical year, we receive just two or three reports of bears breaking into homes.  This summer, we are hearing of two to three attempted or successful home entries per week.”  

The department urges individuals, towns, and businesses to be proactive in keeping bears from seeking food near people.  Securing garbage, taking down bird feeders, locking vehicles and making sure not to store food in vehicles, composting properly, and protecting backyard livestock with an electric fence are necessary. 

“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.” 

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The mission of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is the conservation of all species of fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the people of Vermont.