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Over the past month, it seems there has been a flurry of bear sightings throughout The Valley. Via Front Porch Forum, we've learned about bears lounging on porches in Waitsfield and feasting from trash bins in Warren. Everyone's talking about what they saw and where.
Last week, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department sent out a press release stating that, indeed, they have been getting a lot of calls about bear sightings this summer. With their statement came the usual words of wisdom: We are humans occupying what was traditionally bear territory. As development has increased in The Valley over the past 50 years, run-ins with wildlife have also increased.
But how much of the recent bear frenzy has been fueled by social media? Before the Internet, when you saw a bear you probably told your neighbors. You didn't tell the whole town. With the invention of networking sites like Facebook, however, residents now have the ability to inform their community of any sightings, no matter how significant.
It's fun to read about the bear that was chased up a tree by a golden retriever, or the one—in typical Winnie the Pooh fashion—that was caught knocking over beehives. So far, it seems social media is a great way to share casual stories with friends as well as alert residents of potentially serious situations, but it's important not to confuse the two. Just because there have been more reports of bears doesn't necessarily mean there are more bears or that they've become more aggressive toward humans.
As technology advances, it's easier for government agencies like Vermont Fish & Wildlife to gather data about what is going on in different communities across the state. Now, residents looking to report bear sightings don't have to call the office and wait to get a ranger on the phone—they can simply enter the information via a page on the department's website.
In turn, over the past week townspeople have used networking sites to share valuable information from Vermont Fish & Wildlife on how to cohabitate with bears by surrounding beehives and chicken coops with electric fencing, taking down birdfeeders in the summer and securing household trash in more than just a bin.
Coming into berry-ripening season, let's not freak out that The Valley is being overrun by large, furry animals. Let's continue to heed the wealth of useful information that's been made available to us via the Internet, and let's continue to share stories.