Hunters need to buy a special bear tag if they want to hunt the animal during most of the bear-hunting season, which runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 24. Hunters who don't purchase the bear tag can still take bear legally between Nov. 16 and Nov. 24, which is the first nine days of rifle season for deer.
In past years, hunters only needed a standard hunting license to bag a bear, but officials say that made it hard to determine which hunters were out for bear and which shot a bear because they happened to run across one while hunting other game.
"What we didn't have a good handle on, and what we need in order to better manage bear, is a better idea who the people are that are actively out there pursuing them, and where and how they're doing it," said Mark Scott, director of wildlife for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The data will be helpful in managing bear regionally in the state, Scott said. "It'll be similar to the kind of information we've used to refine management of moose and deer, he said."
There are an estimated 6,100 bears in Vermont, which is more than double the population 25 years ago.
Clint Gray, vice president of the Vermont Bearhound Association, said some bear hunters have grumbled about the added $5 cost to licenses this year. But he said most appreciate the special designation for dedicated bear hunters.
"It'll give bear big-game status, and it'll give the biologists some information they can use for management issues," Gray said.