The Vermont Board took a vote to increase the black bear hunting opportunities in the area.  This means that during early season bear tagging, there will be proposed changes to the normal bear hunting routine.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board on Wednesday gave a preliminary approval to one of the proposals designed to stabilize the growth of the bear population in Vermont. They want to also expand hunter opportunities, and provide the Fish and Wildlife Department biologists with important data that will help better manage the black bear population in Vermont.

This vote is going to be able to extend the annual bear season by four extra days and will establish a new, black bear tag for the hunters that want to pursue bears in advance of the deer rifle season that starts in November. The season for both bear and deer rifle will increase from five to nine days with this new proposal.

Those bear hunters that are looking to pursue bears from the beginning of September until the opening day of deer season are going to be required to purchase bear tags which are $5 for residents of the state, and $15 for non-residents. Those hunters that are only wishing to hunt bear during the overlap time period can continue to get a bear tag along with their deer tag on their general hunting licenses for no additional cost. These changes are expected to take effect in 2013.

“We’re fortunate in Vermont to have a healthy, and growing, black bear population,” said Mark Scott, Director of Wildlife for Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “The additional four days of hunting opportunities we’ll add in November under this proposal will help us to slowly stabilize the bear population.

Additionally, the bear license will enable us to gather essential information about hunter effort and success as well as an idea of overall bear hunter numbers, measures that are vital for better estimates of bear populations across Vermont. It is our belief that bear management in Vermont can then be more responsive to changing bear populations and public interests.”

The estimated bear population by the biologists is around 6,000 animals. This is at the upper end of the population goals that are outlines by the Vermont Big Game Management Plan for 2010 through 2020. Four hundred of these bears were harvested in 2011, and hunters typically will harvest around 400 to 600 black bears each season.

The annual bag limit for these bears is one per hunter. “In 1990, Vermont’s bear season was shortened by four days in November because we had an objective at that time to increase the bear population,” said Scott. “We achieved that objective, and now we’re aiming to stabilize the population. In recent years we’ve seen a tripling of bear-human conflicts and an eightfold increase in automobile collisions with bears.”

As part of the rule process that the Fish and Wildlife Board has come up with, the proposal has to be voted on at two or more upcoming board meetings, and agreed upon. On top of this, the department is also recommending that one or more public hearings are held in relation to the adoption of this rule.

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