Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bad News, Bear?

If you’ve been hanging around Spears Store in East Charlotte or have been online at the Front Porch Forum, no doubt you’ve heard about Charlotte’s newest furry resident, our resident black bear. Numerous people have reported spying Ursus americanus, the common black bear wandering around East Charlotte.

As yet it has not been determined to be male or female (no one has had the courage or stamina to get close enough to verify this) although it is likely to be a young male in search of establishing his own territory. If it were female and over 150 lbs, she would be capable of reproducing and have cubs with her, but all reports have been that of a lone specimen. After 16 months of imprinting on their mother, males will wander in an effort to claim their own territory.

“Our” bear seems to have taken up residence somewhere on Pease Mountain based on sightings. Residents of Charlotte have noted him/her crossing Church Hill and Route 7, as well as the numerous reports of him/her raiding bird feeders that were still being used on the South and East side of the mountain.

If we look at the habitat provided and the food sources available within these sightings we can hypothesize that he/she is making it’s home range centered around Pease Mountain, based on the following factors; denning habitat available on the Southeast side of the mountain where there are numerous cliffs with an abandoned apple orchard at the base, water available at the pond on the West side of Route 7, thick stands of fallen conifers (from the Ice Storm of 1998) on the North side, plentiful oak and beech trees, berries, and of course, the bird feeders still being used.

A fact that is taken all too lightly is that most of us are not aware that the bird feeders we love so much are the bane of the black bear’s existence. They become habituated to available food sources and once they have learned that a source can provide sustenance without danger, they will return and eventually, the inevitable occurs; human/bear interaction. This usually evolves into an unfortunate scenario where the bear has to be “removed.”

On March 22 of this year the VT Fish & Wildlife Department sent out a press release that, in our community, has gone largely unheeded. "We are receiving reports of bears getting into bird feeders," said Fish and Wildlife’s Col. David LeCours. "People can help now by removing any food sources that may tempt the bears. That includes taking down bird feeders and not feeding birds until December 1." “Also, don't leave pet food outside, wash down your barbecues after using them, and secure your garbage containers,” he added. “And above all, never purposely leave food out for bears. Feeding bears may seem kind, but it is almost a sure death sentence for them."

Persons suffering bear damage should contact the nearest Vermont Fish & Wildlife office or local game warden prior to taking any control action on their own. Fish & Wildlife personnel will recommend appropriate measures or control strategies that can lessen the problem. Producers of bees/honey, corn, fruit orchards, and livestock interested in learning more about black bear damage, its identification, what to do if damage occurs, and where to go for assistance should contact our Game Warden, Chris Clark or Tom Cook, through the State Police barracks at 878-7111.

Bradley Carleton is Executive Director of Sacred, a non-profit that seeks to educate the public on the spiritual connection of man to nature and raises funds for Traditions Outdoor, which mentors at-risk young men in outdoor pursuits.

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