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Earth Day: Avoiding Bear Conflict

HAPPY EARTH DAY! With warming weather, our local bear residents are waking up from their long snooze and are on the hunt for food. When they discover minimal seeds and berries in the forest, they will often resort to seeking out food in residential areas – digging through trash bins and sniffing out meat residue on grills. Although we want our local bears to be fed, allowing them to feast on our trash creates an unsafe environment for both the bears and us (not to mention it makes a huge mess of our yard!). For this year’s Earth Day, we asked Vermont Fish & Wildlife how to best avoid bear conflicts, and what to do if you find yourself in a “hairy” situation.

  1. Know the Golden Rule: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear. Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s website states: “People often encourage bears to come out of the forest by providing food without realizing it. When bears become used to these food sources and have frequent contact with humans they become more dependent on human foods and less wary. This is bad news for the bears. This puts bears at increased risk to vehicle collisions and of being killed in defense of property.” It is illegal to intently feed wildlife.

  2. Take your bird feeders in between April and November.

  3. Feed your pets indoors.

  4. Keep chickens and honeybees secure within an electric fence or other bear-proof enclosure.

  5. Be mindful about your trash. Reduce the amount of time it sits outside (especially at night) and invest in bear-resistant trash containers. If it’s necessary to keep your trash outside, put ammonia or bleach in the can to mask the smell (do NOT mix the two together - choose one or the other!)

  6. Add lots of leaves and other carbon-heavy materials to your compost. It will help reduce the smell of your decomposing food and help to break down the food faster.

  7. Keep your cars locked. Bears are able to open car doors and climb inside to find snacks. This will often result in total destruction of your car’s interior. 

  8. Clean out the grease trap on your grill. 

  9. Set up bright motion-sensored lights and a Critter Gitter noise maker at night. These will scare the bear away and notify you of their presence.

What should you do if you stumble across a bear on your property or in the woods? Vermont Fish & Wildlife suggests:

  • Remain calm.

  • Ensure the bear has an escape route.

  • Back away when possible.

  • If attacked in a building or tent, immediately fight back.

  • DO NOT run from a bear.

  • DO NOT climb trees to escape a bear.

  • DO NOT feed the bear.

Looking for additional tips on avoiding bear conflict this spring and summer? Contact your local Game Warden and visit VTFishandWildlife.com. Do you know your local Game Warden? Check out who patrols your town here:

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