Vermont Officials Warn of Bears ‘On the Prowl’

  • Bears may be attracted to human food sources, but a few simple steps can reduce problems between bears and people. (Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department photograph)

Published: 5/17/2017 12:14:42 PM
Modified: 5/17/2017 12:23:42 PM

Montpelier — Vermont Fish & Wildlife officials say they are “gearing up for what will likely be another record year for bear conflicts” and are urging Vermonters to remove potential food sources that attract bears.

“The number of bear complaints we’ve received has increased nearly every year for more than a decade,” Forrest Hammond, Vermont’s lead bear biologist, said in a news release today.

“A large and healthy bear population is butting up against an increasing number of people who have built houses in the woods, fragmenting bears’ habitat and attracting them with backyard food sources. The bears are not going to change their behavior so it’s up to us to make the change.” 

Residents are required by law to remove bear attractants and are prohibited from killing problem bears without first taking extensive nonlethal measures, according to the release.

Hammond said residents should do the following to avoid attracting bears:

— Remove food sources such as pet food, dirty barbecue grills, garbage, compost and campsites with accessible food and food waste.

— Remove birdfeeders, one of the most common bear attractants, and clean up the seeds beneath them.

— Consider installing electric fencing around food sources such as dumpsters, chicken coops, berry gardens and beehives.

— Add carbon-rich “brown” materials, such as leaves, to compost to make it “as scent-free as possible.” Avoid adding meats and smelly foods, and turn the pile over every few weeks.

Hammond said residents should keep a “respectful distance” from bears and contact a local warden if a bear is spotted in a residential neighborhood. Sightings can also be reported at

Hammond said it is “extremely difficult to relocate a nuisance bear far enough” for it not to return, and “sadly, these bears sometimes need to be put down.”

“In Vermont, we treasure our wildlife, so it’s up to people to avoid attracting bears before a bear becomes an issue,” he said.

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