Forest Service offers bear safety tips to recreation users

REGION – Forest Service officials in Vermont announced that they have had several reports of bear sightings, bears approaching and entering shelters, and some reports of bears aggressively getting into backpacks in an attempt to find food. This week, the agency began posting alert notices at trail shelters and at developed campsites to notify recreation users about the recent spike in bear activity on the Manchester Ranger District of the Green Mountain National Forest. The Forest Service says it has had numerous reports of bear sightings throughout the months of June and July.

Reports of human encounters with black bears continue to increase across the Green Mountain National Forest. While many visitors and campers never encounter a bear, the forest is their home and bears can quickly become habituated to human food and waste. In recent weeks, visitors have reported numerous incidents of bears looking for food.

It is vital that people recreating on the forest keep a clean campsite to ensure that bears and other animals don’t forage for your food. Be sure to properly store all food, and odorous items, including toothpaste, condiments such as ketchup and mustard, food wrappers, and anything else that may attract bears. Improperly stored food not only attracts bears to people currently camping at a site but lets the bear know that it can find food at that campsite in the future. The bear may return to the site when other families are recreating there.

Too many times, visitors believe they have stored their food safely, but in reality have left it within a bear’s reach. Bears are meant to be wild and feeding them creates negative consequences for them. Bears that get too used to people may eventually have to be killed to ensure your safety. Following safe food storage practices protects both you and the bears. It is your responsibility to ensure your safety and that of future campers by not purposefully or inadvertently feeding bears. It is illegal in the state of Vermont to feed bears. So remember:

  • Always keep a clean camp.
  • Don’t leave any food, including condiments, out when not in use.
  • Store food in bear-resistant units, hard-shelled vehicles, or car trunks.
  • Keep sleeping areas, tents, and sleeping bags free of food and odor like toothpaste or deodorant.
  • Don’t sleep in clothes you cooked or handled fish or game in.
  • Never bury or burn food waste.
  • If camping in the backcountry, hang your food bag at least 10 feet off the ground and 5 feet out from a tree limb that could support a bear, or better yet pack and use bear resistant containers.
  • If possible, in backcountry areas, place sleeping tents at least 100 yards away from food storage and cooking areas.
  • If hiking with a dog, keep it on a leash or leave it home.

Persons should report bear sightings or damage caused by bears to their nearest Vermont Fish & Wildlife office at 802-828-1000 or a local Vermont State Game Warden at 802-442-5421 prior to taking any control action on their own. Vermont Fish & Wildlife personnel will recommend appropriate measures or control strategies that can alleviate bear related problems.

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