WATERBURY, VT – The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department reminds Vermonters that feeding wild animals can create dangerous situations. A woman who had fed bears in the past was injured by a bear at her home in Cabot, on May 30th. According to the department, a woman attempted to scare a bear and cubs off her deck. It appears the woman may have come between the bear and her cubs. The bear attacked the woman, injuring her leg, which resulted in the woman being treated at a local hospital.
The incident underscores why the department asks people to stop feeding birds during spring, summer and fall and to never purposely feed bears. The woman had been previously warned by a State Game Warden to stop purposely feeding bears and to not feed birds because of bears being attracted to this easy source of food at her house. The department believes the bear acted naturally in trying to protect her cubs, and so there are no plans to destroy her.
“We are receiving reports from all over the state of bears seeking food at bird feeders, bee hives, chicken coops and other sources,” said State Wildlife Biologist Forrest Hammond.
“People can help by removing any food sources that may tempt the bears.
“Bears are smart and are easily attracted to birdfeeders and then gradually lose their fear of people to the point that they begin going from house to house looking for more goodies,” added Hammond. “It doesn’t take long in these situations before a bear gets so comfortable around people that it loses its natural wariness of people and causes property damage or begins to be seen as a potential threat to people in surprise encounters. When the department has to choose between the safety of people and the safety of bears, bears will always lose.”
“Don’t leave pet food outside, wash down your barbecues after using them, and secure your garbage containers,” he added. “And above all, never purposely leave food out for bears or any other wildlife. Feeding bears may seem kind, but it is almost a sure death sentence for them.”
Hammond says that although rare, there have been other incidents in New York and New Hampshire this spring in which people also were injured by bears that lost their fear of people while finding food near homes in areas where they had been intentionally fed.
“We care about these bears as much as anyone,” he said. “Having to destroy one that has become a threat to human safety is not a pleasant experience, and we know that moving them to another location doesn’t change their behavior. They continue to seek food near people because they have learned that it works. Vermont has a healthy, wild population of black bears. People can help keep bears and other wildlife from becoming a problem by simply not feeding them.”
Vermont law prohibits a person from killing a bear that has been attracted to any artificial bait or food such as bird seed. The fine for doing so can be as high as $1,000.
To learn more about black bears, go to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com).
Forrest Hammond, 802-885-8832; Mark Scott, 802-241-3700