The Mountain Times

°F Mon, April 21, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department embarks on new bear management strategy

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is unveiling a new strategy to manage Vermont's growing black bear population. The strategy involves extending the bear hunting season and implementing a low-cost early season bear tag to collect additional data on bear harvest success rates and hunter effort.

Vermont's black bear population is currently estimated at 6,000 animals, which is the very upper limit of the management objectives set forth by the state's 10-year big game plan. The population has been growing at approximately 4 percent per year and the Department would like to slow the population growth.

"The fall 2012 black bear harvest was up 20 percent from the average harvest due in part to a decrease in foods such as apples and beechnuts, but also due to the large, healthy bear population in Vermont," said Forrest Hammond, bear project leader for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "With the increased bear population, we've seen an increased number of damage and nuisance complaints coming from farmers and residents. We're hoping this new management strategy will address some of those complaints by allowing more hunting days to help stabilize the population."

Beginning this fall, the regular bear hunting season will extend an additional four days in the November deer rifle season. The nine-day bear tag that overlaps with deer rifle season will still be provided at no additional cost with the purchase of a regular hunting license.

Hunters wishing to hunt bears before deer rifle season will now need to purchase a $5 early season bear tag. Biologists are hoping to gain a better understanding of the number of hunters who pursue bear before deer rifle season, the amount of time they spend hunting, and their success rates in order to develop effective management strategies. "The additional early-season bear tag is something that dedicated bear hunters have been asking us to implement for years," explained Hammond.

Hunters sixty-five and older who purchase a permanent license do not need the early season tag to hunt bear during the early season. Their license is valid during the early and late bear seasons.  However, five-year and lifetime license holders whose license is valid starting in 2013 will need to purchase the additional tag to hunt bear before the November deer rifle season.

Editor's Note: The annual bag limit for black bear in Vermont remains at one bear despite the changes to the seasons.