The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says hunters who took a bear in the 2020 bear hunting seasons can now look up the age of their bear on the department’s website, vtfishandwildlife.com.
“Successful bear hunters help in our management of this magnificent big game animal by providing a small premolar tooth from their bear,” said Forrest Hammond, bear project leader for Vermont Fish and Wildlife. “We have collected pre-molar teeth from harvested bears since 1968 to evaluate age composition of the harvest and to estimate the size of the population. The teeth are sent to a laboratory in Montana for aging by cementum analysis. The oldest female was 24 years old, and the oldest male was 20 years old.”
Hunters took a record 925 black bears during the two-part early and late bear seasons. The previous highest harvest ever recorded in Vermont was 750 in 2019.
Hammond says the average number of bears taken over the previous 10 years was 608, and the hunting season results are consistent with the goal of maintaining the bear population to within 3,500 to 5,500 bears.
In 2020, hunters took a majority of the bears, 831, in the early season and only 94 in the late bear season, which overlaps with the November deer season. Most bears were taken with modern firearms, while 16 percent were taken by archery and 17 percent with the use of bear hounds.
“In addition to an abundant population and the potential of harvesting delicious and nutritious bear meat, larger numbers of bears were harvested due to several factors,” said Hammond. “It was a poor year for natural bear foods, and we saw a surge in hunter numbers brought about by the COVID -19 pandemic and perhaps a corresponding increase in the number of hunters spending more time in the outdoors hunting than in past years.”
Hammond says 2020 was challenging for bear management in Vermont with game wardens and bear project staff responding to more than double the number of bear-human conflicts than any year in the past. Despite the large number of bear problems and the high number of bears harvested by hunters, Hammond points out that these numbers vary each year and that the bear population remains within the 2020-2030 Big Game Plan bear population objective.