Living With Bears

Lately I've been hearing about bears in yards, on decks, emptying bird feeders, etc. I thought I would forward some information I gathered and adapted mostly from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife website and the province of Ontario wildlife website.

There are best management practices we can all follow to prevent conflicts and incidents with bears. Viewing bears in their natural habitat is truly a special moment! Sorry if I am "preaching to the choir" for those of you already following these best bear management practices!

Damian Szygenda-Sedney
(former biologist for the National Park Service)


Living with Underhill's Black Bears

Black bears are found in most forested portions of Vermont. They generally rely on wild foods such as berries, wild cherries, beechnuts and acorns to survive. However, as humans move into bear habitat, bears can become attracted, "addicted" or "conditioned" to other foods such as birdseed, garbage, and pet food. In addition, adult bears can teach or "condition" young bears to favor and seek-out human-supplied food sources - ignoring natural forest and brush-land food sources. THIS WILL FREQUENTLY RESULT IN DEADLY CONSEQUENCES FOR THE BEARS. BEARS THAT BECOME CONDITIONED TO HUMAN-SUPPLIED FOOD SOURCES INEVITABLY BECOME MORE BOLD AND LESS AFRAID OF HUMANS AND HUMAN STRUCTURES. IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO "UN-CONDITION" BEARS FROM THEIR ACQUIRED ADDICTION TO HUMAN-SUPPLIED FOOD SOURCES.

Have you been viewing bears from your home or yard? Have the bears been close to your home? Are your bird feeders emptied just after you filled them?! You may not even know you are doing it... You could be attracting bears onto your property and into your community. Garbage is the main reason why bears are drawn into communities. Bird and pet food, greasy barbecues and ripe or decaying fruit, berries and vegetables are other invitations to bears to forage for food in your yard. This is not good for you, for your neighbors or for bears.....

You can help the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department maintain a healthy bear population by reducing the chance you will attract bears to your property. Bird feeders, barbecue grills, garbage, improperly maintained compost structures and dirty campsites can become appealing food sources to bears.

These human-supplied food sources can also become deadly — the bear could be struck by a motor vehicle in a populated area, injured or shot by someone protecting their property, or have to be destroyed by wildlife officials. When a bear is being "fed" (directly or indirectly by human actions), its life expectancy is likely reduced (causing the bear to be killed by wildlife officials to prevent dangerous humanbear interactions.

Black bears are normally shy and not aggressive to humans. However, a bear that has been "fed" by humans, loses this shyness and can become a potential danger to human safety. When this occurs, there is often little recourse except to destroy the bear.

Follow these guidelines to decrease the chance of conflicts with bears:

Dispose of garbage frequently. Store it in clean, secure containers (top‐latched, tied, or chained). Don’t put garbage out at the curb the night before pickup. Before a vacation or even an overnight absence from your home - place garbage cans inside your garage or a latched shed. Smelly or rotting food scraps are especially attractive to bears!!

Feed pets indoors or keep the food inside a tall fenced outdoor kennel with the pet. Bears probably won't climb over a six-foot fenced kennel, if a barking dog is inside that kennel !

Keep barbecue grills clean and stored inside if possible - otherwise wash grills after every use and empty grease-cups daily.

** Don’t feed birds from April 1 to December 1 ** If you feel you must feed birds during this period - place the bird feeders inside an electrical fence that is "bear proof". See the link below for suggestions.

If you have livestock, dispose of animal carcasses immediately by burying or incinerating.


Support protecting and enhancing natural food sources in areas away from human habitation. For more information about how you can help enhance bear habitat, visit the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department website. Please report any black bear incidents you may have had. To report a backyard VISIT or damage caused by a bear, go to the Fish & Wildlife website for and fill in the form: Black Bear Incident Reporting >>>


Help is Available !

Persons suffering bear damage should contact our Vermont Fish & Wildlife state game warden prior to taking any control action on their own. Fish & Wildlife personnel will recommend appropriate measures or control strategies that can lessen the problem. Here is the contact information for Tom Cook, the state game warden for the Underhill area.

Tom Cook 878-7111 (W) 878-0094 (H) - Essex Jct. or

Producers of bees/honey, corn, fruit orchards, and livestock interested in learning more about black bear damage, its identification, what to do if damage occurs, and where to go for assistance should contact our local Vermont Fish & Wildlife local game warden about strategies.

Visit these websites to learn more about black bears: >>>>> (see pages 3-36 to 3-37 for bird feeders)


Copied from a message on FPF

You have no rights to post comments

Go To Top