To the Editor: Bears are exiting their winter dens, so it’s the perfect time for Protect Our Wildlife's new bear report titled, “Vermont Black Bears and How to Effectively Manage Conflict” that can be found on their website. The report is the product of a five-month-long project launched by an Environmental Sciences student at the University of Vermont and was overseen by Protect Our Wildlife. Contributors to the report also include a Stowe resident with a Ph.D. in microbiology and molecular genetics with post-doctoral research experience from Harvard Medical School, as well as an ecologist, and other experts with varied backgrounds.
The report touches on a number of matters from possible reasons why there was such a dramatic increase in bear complaints reported to VT Fish & Wildlife in 2020 to simple things we can each do to prevent bear conflicts from happening in the first place. One easy thing we can do right now is bring in our bird feeders for the season. Taking bird feeders in at night isn't sufficient, since spilled seed on the ground will attract hungry bears who possess a superior sense of smell.
The 2020 bear hunt produced a record 921 bears killed, with half being female. Vermont's bear hunt is one of the longest in the country, including the contentious practice of using radio-collared hounds. The bear report includes research that reveals that the hunting season is not an effective tool to reduce bear conflicts. The report impresses the following on Vermonters, “Before we choose lethal methods of bear management, we also need to consider the ethics and impact to bear families. Bears form tight family units with the cubs staying with their mother for about a year and a half. When we implement lethal control, this disrupts the bear’s natural lifecycle, potentially leaving a cub to grow up without a mother.”
We cannot hunt our way out of bear conflicts. It is on us to be good bear neighbors.
The writer is president and co-founder of Protect Our Wildlife, an all volunteer-run wildlife protection organization.