People usually the problem with “nuisance” bears

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(Host) Vermont wildlife officials say they’re getting many reports about nuisance bears this summer. But they say people are usually the problem, not the wildlife.

So officials are enforcing a law that says the public should remove bird feeders if they’re attracting bears.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Walden resident Roger Lyons has a popular web site that shows the weather and the wildlife near his home near Cole’s Pond.

He’s hooked a TV camera up to the Internet and a few weeks ago deer and bear came to a bird feeder placed about six inches above the ground.

(Lyons) “I mean these pictures are just absolutely precious. You’re seeing animals and creatures that go bump in the night that you never would normally see.”

(Dillon) Wildlife watchers from around the world have clicked on to the site. So have state game wardens. One paid Lyons a visit after they got complaints of a nuisance bear in the neighborhood.

Lyons says he was shocked to find out that what he was doing is against the law.

(Lyons) “Of course, that at first startled me. I thought I’m going to be arrested and put in the back of a cruiser for having a bird feeder?”

(Dillon) State wildlife officials say there’s a good reason for the law. Bears that become used to food left out by humans lose their fear of people.

Colonel Robert Rooks is the chief of enforcement at the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

(Rooks) “What happens is that eventually the bear becomes such a problem that we end up having to destroy it. And you know that can be avoided if people stop feeding or placing feed where bears can get access to it.”

(Dillon) Rooks says wardens have responded to 97 nuisance bear complaints so far this year. Among the casualties are three sheep, one pig and a number of chickens killed by bears.

(Rooks) “And typically it’s associated with some kind of food source that’s attracted them to the area to begin with.”

(Dillon) Lyons, the Walden resident with the web cam, says he understands the issue of bears coming to bird feeders. He says he’s had a number of feeders destroyed by bears over the years. But he says the warden was heavy handed in dealing with the issue.

(Lyons) “I was threatened with arrest. It seems they could have recognized that my web site is a good thing for Vermont.”

(Dillon) Rooks says the warden responded within the law.

(Rooks) “We received a number of complaints about bear in the area and that he was feeding them and that bears were being attracted to that.”

(Dillon) State wildlife director John Austin says Vermont has about 48-hundred bears, and that the number is growing. He says more and more Vermonters live in a bear’s home range.

(Austin) “It’s a wide ranging carnivore and they don’t do well around people. So we want to try and keep a wild healthy bear population that has a good fear of people. That’s the best thing we can do for the bear population.”

(Dillon) Austin says it’s good to take bird feeders down in the summer, since the birds have plenty of wild food.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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