First hunting season for bears nears

VERMONT — Vermont has two bear hunting seasons. The early bear hunting season, which requires a special bear tag, starts Sept. 1 and continues through Nov. 14. The late bear season begins Nov. 15 and continues through Nov. 23.
The bear tag that comes with a hunting license is for use during the late season, which partially overlaps with the November deer season.   
The early season bear tag costs $5 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. A hunter may only take one bear during the year. 
Vermont’s regulated bear hunting seasons help manage Vermont’s bear population, now estimated at about 6,000 bears, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. The number of bears has increased during the last two decades and is now at the high end of the objective of 4,500 to 6,000 bears listed in Vermont’s Big Game Management Plan for 2010-2020.
“Twenty-five years ago Vermont’s bear population was less than 3,000, and bears existed primarily in the mountains and in the northeastern quarter of the state,” said wildlife biologist Forrest Hammond. “Through changes in hunting regulations, at the urging of the public we successfully encouraged bears to increase in number. The downside of this, however, is that the human population has also increased with the result that encounters between humans and bears have become more frequent.”
“Although bear-human conflicts were once relatively rare,” added Hammond, “we are now seeing more incidents of bears doing damage, primarily where they are attracted to foods such as bird seed, pet food left outside, garbage containers, bee hives, chicken coops, barbecues, livestock and field corn.
“Carefully regulated hunting plays a very important role in wildlife management by helping to control the growth of the black bear population and allowing for the sustainable utilization of black bears for food and other purposes,” said Hammond.
Hammond reminds hunters to please collect a small pre-molar tooth from each harvested bear, because, he stressed, “The collection of a premolar tooth from every bear reported is critical to the bear project as it provides important data for evaluating changes to the age structure of the bear population and for making population estimates.”
“The tooth is actually quite small and easy to loosen with a knife,” he added. “Directions for removing the tooth are on the back of the envelope provided by the check station. We are able to age the bear from the tooth and gain essential knowledge about the status of Vermont’s bear population.”
“We also have a video on our website, www.vtfishandwildlife.com, showing how to remove the tooth.” (See www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n3i91OAXGc&feature=youtu.be.)
Hunters took 556 bears last year in Vermont. A report listing the number of bears taken in each town during the 2013 bear season is available on Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s website at (www.vtfishandwildlife.com). Click on “Hunting and Trapping,” and then “Big Game.”

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