F&W seeks to slow bear growth
STAFF REPORTS | February 03,2013
Stefan Hard / Staff File Photo
A black bear pads through a homeowner’s lawn in Berlin.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is unveiling a new strategy to manage Vermont’s growing black bear population. The strategy involves extending the bear hunting season, and implementing a low-cost, early-season bear tag to collect additional data on bear harvest success rates and hunter effort.
Vermont’s black bear population is currently estimated at 6,000 animals, which is the very upper limit of the management objectives set forth by the state’s 10-year big game plan. The population has been growing at approximately 4 percent per year and the Department would like to slow the population growth.
“The fall 2012 black bear harvest was up 20 percent from the average harvest due in part to a decrease in foods such as apples and beechnuts, but also due to the large, healthy bear population in Vermont,” said Forrest Hammond, bear project leader for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “With the increased bear population, we’ve seen an increased number of damage and nuisance complaints coming from farmers and residents. We’re hoping this new management strategy will address some of those complaints by allowing more hunting days to help stabilize the population.”
Beginning this fall, the regular bear hunting season will extend an additional four days in the November deer rifle season. The nine-day bear tag that overlaps with deer rifle season will still be provided at no additional cost with the purchase of a regular hunting license.
Hunters wishing to hunt bears before deer rifle season will now need to purchase a $5 early-season bear tag. Biologists are hoping to gain a better understanding of the number of hunters who pursue bear before deer rifle season, the amount of time they spend hunting, and their success rates in order to develop effective management strategies.
“The additional early-season bear tag is something that dedicated bear hunters have been asking us to implement for years,” Hammond said.
Hunters 65e and older who purchase a permanent license do not need the early season tag to hunt bear during the early season. Their license is valid during the early and late bear seasons. However, five-year and lifetime license holders whose license is valid starting in 2013 will need to purchase the additional tag to hunt bear before the November deer rifle season.
Since 2009 hunters have had the opportunity to pursue snow geese during the spring as a result of a special management action referred to as a “Conservation Order” allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and adopted by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board.
The measure was adopted at the recommendation of federal and state wildlife scientists in response to concerns about a growing number of snow geese across North America. Eight states in the Atlantic Flyway (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Vermont) will hold a Spring Snow Goose Conservation Order in 2013.
The Vermont 2013 Spring Snow Goose Conservation Order will occur statewide from March 11 through April 26. The daily bag limit is 15 snow geese, and there is no possession limit. Waterfowl hunting regulations in effect last fall will apply during the 2013 Spring Snow Goose Conservation Order with the exception that unplugged shotguns and electronic calls may be used, and shooting hours will be extended until a half- hour after sunset.
A 2013 Spring Snow Goose Harvest Permit is required and is available at no charge on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s website (vtfishandwildlife.com). Hunters may also call the Essex Junction Office (802-878-1564) to request a permit.
In addition to this permit, hunters will need a 2013 Vermont hunting license (residents $22, nonresidents $50), 2013 Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification, a 2012 federal migratory hunting stamp ($15), and a 2013 Vermont migratory waterfowl stamp ($7.50). Hunters can register with the Harvest Information Program by going to the department website or calling toll free 1-877-306-7091 during normal business hours.
The populations of snow geese, blue geese and Ross’s geese in North America, collectively referred to as “light geese,” have grown to record levels over the past three decades.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the overabundance of light geese, which nest in far northern regions of North America, is harming their fragile arctic breeding habitat. The damage to the habitat is, in turn, harming the health of the light geese and other bird species that depend on the tundra habitat. Returning the light goose population to sustainable levels is necessary to protect this delicate habitat and every species dependent on it.
Greater snow geese make up a large share of the light goose population in the Atlantic Flyway.
“The population of greater snow geese has grown from approximately 50,000 birds in the mid-1960s to 1 million today,” said David Sausville, Vermont’s waterfowl project biologist. “This increase has resulted in damage to agricultural crops and marsh vegetation in staging and wintering areas from Quebec to North Carolina. The Atlantic Flyway has established a goal of 500,000 greater snow geese to bring populations in balance with their habitat and reduce crop depredation.”
Hunters who obtain a permit will be required to complete an online survey after April 26 and prior to May 16, 2013, whether they hunted or not. Hunters without access to the internet may obtain a copy of the survey by calling 802-878-1564.
The Spring Snow Goose hunt occurs annually from March 11 until the Friday before Youth Turkey Weekend.
During spring migration, snow geese typically move through the Champlain Valley in late March and early April. They usually pass through Vermont fairly quickly in route to their spring staging areas along the St. Lawrence River Valley. Here they remain for about a month before moving on to their nesting areas in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. About 100 snow geese are taken by Vermont hunters during the spring seasons.