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The Vermont Fish & Wildlife board will hold two public hearings to discuss a proposed bear hunting regulation designed to increase bear hunting opportunities, stabilize Vermont’s growing bear population and provide Fish & Wildlife Department biologists with additional data to better manage black bears in Vermont.
The hearings will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22, at the Kehoe Conservation Camp in Castleton and Wednesday, May 23, at Lyndon State College in Room 100.
The board voted in March on a proposal presented by department biologists that would extend the annual bear season by four days and establish a new, separate black bear tag for those hunters who want to pursue bear in advance of the November deer rifle season.
Under the proposal, the overlap of the annual bear and November deer rifle season would increase from five to nine days. Bear hunters pursuing bears from the September 1 opening day of bear season until the opening day of deer season would be required to purchase an inexpensive bear tag. Hunters wishing to only take a bear during the time period of the bear season overlap with the November deer season would continue to get a bear tag along with their deer tag on their general hunting license at no additional cost. The changes would take effect in 2013.
“We’re fortunate in Vermont to have a healthy, growing black bear population,” said Mark Scott, director of Wildlife for Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “The additional four days of hunting in November under this proposal will help us to slowly stabilize the bear population. The bear license will enable us to gather essential information about hunter effort and success as well as bear hunter numbers – measures that are vital for better estimates of Vermont’s bear population. We believe bear management in Vermont can then be more responsive to changing bear populations and public interests.”
Biologists estimate Vermont’s bear population at about 6,000 animals, which is at the upper end of the population goals in the Vermont Big Game Management Plan (2010-2020). Four hundred bears were harvested in 2011. Hunters typically harvest between 400 and 600 black bears each autumn in Vermont. The annual bag limit for bears is one per hunter.
“In 1990, Vermont’s bear season was shortened by four days in November because an objective at that time was to increase the bear population,” said Scott. “We achieved that, and now we’re aiming to stabilize the population. In recent years, we’ve seen a tripling of bear-human conflicts and an eightfold increase in automobile collisions with bears.”
As part of the Fish & Wildlife Board’s rule process, the proposal must be voted on at two more upcoming board meetings.