MONTPELIER (AP) - The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is warning residents about displaced, agitated bears due to the fickle winter.

A lack of snow exposes dens and winter rain can make bears uncomfortable and restless, both factors that can cause them to awaken and abandon their dens, said Bear Project Leader Forrest Hammond.

The department said it has received reports of bears at bird feeders, in residential areas and in the back country. A bear is reported to have killed a hunter's beagle in Elmore.

Disrupted bears sometimes produce nests of spruce boughs in dense evergreen thickets so hare and rabbit hunters should be extra wary of these areas, the department said.

All hunters, hikers, skiers and travelers to avoid any areas with bear tracks.

Sara Moore took this picture of a bear in her backyard on Wilsons Woods Road in Brattleboro in June 2013 in this Brattleboro Reformer file photo.
Sara Moore took this picture of a bear in her backyard on Wilsons Woods Road in Brattleboro in June 2013 in this Brattleboro Reformer file photo. (Submitted photo)
Bears may be with newborn cubs, Hammond said.

"It is not uncommon for bears to be out of their dens in winters like this with so little snow cover," he said. "Bears sleep soundly in winters when deep snow covers the entrances to their dens. But during years with little snow, bears are exposed and awaken easily."

Winter rain forces many bears from their dens to seek drier accommodations, he said.