Bear In Your Backyard: How To Handle And Avoid Interactions With Black Bears

Jun 27, 2018

Summer offers Vermonters a great chance to get closer to nature. But sometimes nature gets a bit too close to us. With black bear sightings in the state more than doubling since last year, Vermont Edition looks at how you can make sure your yard isn't attracting them.

Forrest Hammond, black bear project leader for Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, and Bill Kilpatrick, UVM professor emeritus of biology, discuss Vermont's uptick in bear encounters, what you can do to keep yourself (and the wildlife around you) safe and how to report bear sightings.

If you do come in contact with a bear, Hammond and Kilpatrick have some advice.

Get Big

Black bears have notoriously bad eyesight. So if you come across one, try to appear bigger than them by holding your hands up above your head. The bear may mistake you for another larger bear, and stay away.

Speak Up

Bears don’t like loud noises, so make as much noise as possible. For problem bears, some people use air horns, but for the young ones often wandering into Vermont backyards, simple shouting will do. “Holler at them,” Hammond suggests. “Say you’re not welcome here. … They don’t understand you of course, but your tone of voice will do it for them.”

Don’t Run

Although bears may not look particularly speedy, they can run up to 30 miles per hour. And Kilpatrick cautions that running can escalate the situation. “Just like dogs respond to animals running, they tend to chase it. If this is a predatory response for the bear, it’s likely then going to come after that person who’s running.”

Although Vermont’s bear population has exceeded the department’s management goals, Hammond says he sees the increase in black bear sightings as a test case. “It’s a social carrying capacity we’re looking at. How many bears will people tolerate?”

Broadcast on Thursday, June 28 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.