Sow and Cub | Addison County, Vermont | June 2020
"Vermont Black Bears and How To Successfully Manage Conflict" HERE
Tips on how to manage bear attractants to reduce conflicts HERE
There are several tools available on the market today to help you keep curious or hungry bears away from you and your home, business or campsite." Learn more HERE
Licensed professional forester speaks out against record kills during Vermont's and NH's bear hunts.
Black Bears are Important to the Ecosystem, Biodiversity and Human Health
Black bears are one of the most beloved species in Vermont and a favorite among wildlife watchers and photographers. Watching cubs tumbling through the summer grass while mama watches carefully over them, is one of the treasures of living in a state that black bears call home. In addition to the joy they bring to wildlife watchers, they also play a crucial role on our landscapes as keystone species for a variety of reasons, including aiding in seed dispersal; acting as an indicator species for potential environmental issues; and contributing to the dynamic balance of Vermont’s ecosystems. Black bears are also considered an "umbrella" species," which are a wide ranging species whose protection (and habitat’s protection) in turn protects numerous other species.
Bears have very low reproductive rates and undergo a unique reproductive process called delayed implantation. They don’t become sexually mature until about 3-4 years old and females give birth every other year. After mating, the fertilized egg does not implant into the mother's uterus and grow until fall. This process is called "delayed implantation." The egg will begin to grow only if the female has attained a body weight of at least 150 pounds. The female's ability to produce cubs is largely dependent on fall food supplies. If food is inadequate prior to denning, that may impact the viability of producing cubs. In addition to relatively low reproduction rates, sows tend to their cubs for about a year and a half, sometimes longer. During this time, cubs learn all of life’s valuable lessons and how to be a successful adult bear. If the sow is killed, the cubs will either die from starvation or predation. If they survive, they'll be ill-prepared for life on their own.
Vermont does not have an overpopulation of bears. In fact, our landscape can accommodate more than the current estimated population of 4,000 - 4,500 bears. Vermont’s bear population was estimated to be at its highest in 2010 at around 7,000 bears. Bear populations are limited by the social carrying capacity (the capacity that humans will tolerate), not the capacity of the land, otherwise known as the biological carrying capacity.
In Vermont, bears are terrorized through the woods most of the year, starting on June 1st which is the start of hound "training" season that runs all summer long. Vermont's hound training season is one of the longest in the country and places tremendous stress on bear families. Then hunting season starts on September 1st and runs through the end of November. More than 920 bears were hunted and killed during the 2020 hunting season in Vermont. That is approximately 20% of the bear population! That number doesn't take into account the bears that are injured every year during the hunting season and die but are not recovered. Additionally, bears are killed every year for causing conflicts with the public, such as feeding on corn.
Read our president, Brenna Galdenzi's, commentary 'Bears deserve better than Fish & Wildlife provides' here.
Most "bear incidents" that are reported to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department are simply the public seeing a bear! Bears are not a threat to humans, but humans are surely a threat to bears.