BRATTLEBORO -- The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reminding successful bear hunters to submit a bear tooth so that wildlife managers can collect information on Vermont's bear population.
Teeth submitted by hunters are used to determine the age of the bear. Department staff use age and sex data to get an estimate of the number of bears in the state and to determine the status and health of the bear population. Envelopes for submitting the tooth are available at big game check stations.
"The premolar tooth we're asking hunters to extract is actually quite small and easy to loosen with a knife," said Forrest Hammond, bear project leader for the Fish & Wildlife Department. "Directions for removing the tooth are on the back of the envelope provided by the check station and are also on our website, including a short YouTube video."
According to Hammond, preliminary reports indicate that bear foods such as beech nuts, acorns, apples and berries are plentiful in the woods this year. Previous years with high food availability have usually resulted in a lower September bear harvest and a higher bear harvest during late November when hunters are out in the woods hunting for deer.
"Bears are likely to be more widely dispersed on high, remote ridgelines this fall," said Hammond. "Years like this typically reward hunters who get away from the cornfields and spend more time afield scouting for natural bear food sources."
Vermont now has two bear hunting seasons. The early bear hunting season, which requires a special bear tag, starts Sept. 1 and continues through Nov. 15. The late bear season begins Nov. 16 and continues through Nov. 24. Hunters should remember that the limit for bears remains one per calendar year.
The bear tag that comes with a hunting license is for use during this late season. This season has been extended four additional days during the November deer season. The change in seasons was instated to help better manage Vermont's bear population, which is now estimated at roughly 6,000 black bears.
"Carefully regulated hunting plays a very important role in wildlife management by helping to control the growth of the black bear population," said Hammond. "Minor fluctuations in the bear population will always occur due to changes in food availability, winter severity, and hunter success. Despite these fluctuations, we look at the long-term trends to manage for a healthy, robust population."