Wildlife officials are reminding the public it is a crime in Vermont to feed bears, following the conclusion of an intentional feeding case in the southern part of the state.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Dept. said James Burke, 60, of Wilmington, recently pled no contest to two misdemeanor counts of feeding bears on his property. He was fined more than $800 and lost his hunting and fishing rights in Vermont for three years.
“Wild animals are not pets,” said Col. Jason Batchelder, who heads law enforcement for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Dept.
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In video recorded by game wardens and obtained by necn, several black bears can be seen on Burke’s property.
One animal was seemingly not bothered by a warden standing just feet away, as it ate from a dish of food. Even when the human approached, the bear kept on eating comfortably.
Another bear was loitering in the driveway of the home, and scampered away past a parked vehicle after a warden approached.
“They should not be doing this,” Batchelder said of the animals’ behavior.
Batchelder said homeowners may have good intentions if they feed bears, whether to admire the majesty of nature or to try to help the animals, but usually, those intentions could backfire.
“These bears were running out of food on this one property,” Batchelder noted. “When they were still hungry, they’d go to a neighbor. They’d climb the deck, knock over the trash, knock over a grill, and sometimes even cross roads and get killed. That should not be happening.”
“A fed bear is a dead bear,” warned Tom Rogers of the Fish & Wildlife Dept.
Rogers, who has extensively studied bear behavior, said bears don’t need humans’ help to eat.
If bears are fed by humans, Rogers and Batchelder said, that could really mess with their rhythms, maybe delaying when they go to their dens for the winter.
“They can find food on their own,” Rogers told necn. “And when people do try to intervene, even with the best intentions, it usually ends up badly for the bear.”
Rogers said he wants to see bears keep to themselves in the woods and mountains, and for people to not do anything to draw them out.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Dept. said James Burke had been previously warned, multiple times, about feeding bears on his property before he was charged with the recent minor crimes.