The number of black bears (Ursus americanus) in Vermont has been increasing in the last few years. The 2022 population estimate is between 7,000 and 8,500 animals. This data has just been released by the Agency of Natural Resources Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. The Black Bear Project leader in this area, Jaclyn Comeau, confirms that these numbers represent a five-year high. However, this does not mean that numbers will be sustained at these levels. The population will likely drop back as it has done in previous population cycles.
Black Bear Population Recovery in Vermont
In the early 1970s, the Vermont black bear population numbered only between 1,000 and 3,500 animals and was limited to mountainous areas. These days, they are found in every Vermont town except for those on Lake Champion Island. During the 1990s, the population became stable at anything between 4,000 and 7,500 bears. At this time, there were consistent cycles of growth followed by decline.
Since 2019, the population has seen a steady growth and so a natural decline may be just around the corner. The recovery of the population is attributed to ‘decades-long research and conservation effort’.
Challenges of Coexisting With Bears
North American black bears are large animals with claws and teeth and are therefore potentially dangerous animals. They can weigh up to around 600 pounds in weight and grow to over 6 feet in height. These bears are omnivores and are constantly on the lookout for food which is why they are attracted to human settlements. Our food and our garbage represent an easy source of calories for bears! It encourages them to come out of their natural forest habitats and some become dependent on human food. This makes them less wary of humans which puts them at increased risk of vehicle collisions and of being killed by humans who are defending themselves or their properties.
Advice for Deterring Bears From Your Property
The advice from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is to try to eliminate things that will attract bears to your property in the first place. These include pet food, barbecue grills, garbage, open dumpsters, and even birdfeeders. It is illegal to purposely feed a black bear in the area and it is also not good for the bear!
How to Deal With a Black Bear Encounter
If you do encounter a black bear, the advice is that you should remain calm and make sure that the bear has an escape route. If possible, back away but do not run. There is also no point in climbing a tree because black bears are excellent climbers!
Bear spray is a pepper spray that is specially designed to deter bears. It can be used as a last resort if you are faced with an aggressive bear. However, you should be mindful of local laws and regulations that may restrict its use.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/jjMiller11
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