Reports of problem bears on the rise in Vermont

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DUXBURY, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont Fish and Wildlife is battling the challenge of a growing bear population, sending out warnings of increased sightings from around the state. Here's a look at how wildlife experts are responding to sightings and working to keep the bears alive and Vermonters' homes safe.

Vermont Game Warden Chad Barrett captured video in Duxbury Tuesday morning of trained hounds chasing a bear up a tree.

The goal, Barrett says, is to scare bears out areas with people so Vermont Fish and Wildlife doesn't have to shoot the animals.

Barrett says wardens across the state have been getting more and more calls.

"It seems like it's increasing over the last couple years," he said. "It's always a food source they are trying to get to."

Christopher Martin lives by the woods in Johnson and says he has seen more bears around his home than ever before.

"There is more bears and then there is deer," Martin said. "I think there's a lot of bears here."

Martin says the bears have been getting close to his home, even eating his dog's food.

"They haven't caused any damage but I noticed that they are there, pretty brazen, they are there hungry. You know bears are hungry is what it is," he said.

Across the street, bears have caused some damage. A bear tried to get inside the garage and the house scavenging for food.

"Some of the damage that it did to some of the screens as it pulled them out of the windows," Barrett noted.

Barrett says bears will look for an easy meal in places such as garbage, beehives and bird feeders. In this case, Barrett says the bear smelled some honeycomb inside. Vermont Fish and Wildlife suggests securing your garbage and also using an electric fence around beehives and chicken coops.

"They're not after children, they're not after pets, they're after an easy meal," Barrett said. "They will come and go as long as it's there, they're going to keep coming and going."

Barrett says there were about 3,000 black bears in the Vermont 10 years ago. Today, we have about 7,000. He says mild winters and an aging hunting population mean bears are flourishing.

"We do have more bears in the state, so we are going to be seeing them more," he said. "The more people that live out in the country in the community, the more bears you're going to have."

The warden says black bears are not generally aggressive and don't want to interact with people.

Christopher Martin says even though he has seen more bears, he feels safe.

"I don't feel threatened by him, I really don't," Martin said.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife officials say to reach out if a bear is scavenging on your property.

"A bear, medium or large-size bear could easily tear this off in a couple minutes and access the garage in there," Barrett said.

Their goal is to keep the bears alive.