MONTPELIER — The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department reports that bear hunters in Vermont had another safe and successful hunting season in 2020.
Preliminary numbers show that hunters took a record 914 black bears during the two-part early and late bear seasons. The previous highest harvest ever recorded in Vermont was 750 in 2019. Fish and Wildlife also says there were no hunting-related shooting incidents.
The average number of bears taken over the previous 10 years was 608. The hunting season results are consistent with the goal of maintaining the bear population to within 3,500 to 5,500 bears, according to Forrest Hammond, Fish and Wildlife’s bear biologist.
In 2020, hunters took a majority of the bears, 823, in the early season and only 91 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.
Hammond noted that participation in the early bear season increased substantially with 13,866 hunters choosing to purchase a $5 early season bear tag.
“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 reports 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 tend to vary each year and that the bear population remains within the 2020-2030 Big Game Plan bear population objective.
Bear hunters continue to provide information that is valuable for managing the species including bringing their bear into one of 150 game check stations and by completing hunter effort surveys.
Each hunter is required to submit a pre-molar tooth from their bear which will provide information on the age of the animal. Bear ages will be posted on Fish and Wildlife’s website in early May.