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VT Fish & Wildlife seeks bear teeth from hunters

Black bear at bird feeder. http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com

Vermont bear hunting starts September 1 and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reminding successful bear hunters to submit a bear tooth so that wildlife managers can collect information on Vermont's bear population.

Teeth submitted by hunters are used to determine the age of the bear. Department staff use age and sex data to get an estimate of the number of bears in the state and to determine the status and health of the bear population. Envelopes for submitting the tooth are available at all big game check stations.

"The premolar tooth we're asking hunters to extract is actually quite small and easy to loosen with a knife," said Forrest Hammond, bear project leader for Vermont Fish & Wildlife. "Directions for removing the tooth are on the back of the envelope provided by the check station and are also on our website, including a short YouTube video."

Hunters should find conditions good for hunting this year if they hunt in areas where bear foods are plentiful. According to Hammond, conditions are different from last year when berries were scarce and beechnuts were plentiful. Preliminary reports indicate blackberries and acorns are abundant this year, but apples are spotty in their occurrence, and there are few beechnuts in most areas. Early season bear hunters may do well in areas of recent patch cuts, along power line rights of way and near cornfields. Previous years with few beechnuts have usually resulted in higher bear harvests during the early parts of the bear season.

Vermont now has two bear hunting seasons. The early bear hunting season, which requires a special bear tag, starts September 1 and continues through November 14. The late bear season begins November 15 and continues through November 23. The limit for bears remains one per calendar year.

The bear tag that comes with a hunting license is for use during this late season. For the second year, this season lasts four additional days during the November deer season. The change in seasons was instated in 2013 to help better manage Vermont's bear population, which is now estimated at roughly 6,000 black bears.

"Carefully regulated hunting plays a very important role in wildlife management by helping to control the growth of the black bear population," said Hammond. "Minor fluctuations in the bear population will always occur due to changes in food availability, winter severity and hunter success. Despite these fluctuations, we look at the long-term trends to manage for a healthy, robust population."

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