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Changes to Vermont wildlife laws - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Changes to Vermont wildlife laws

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Pat Berry Pat Berry
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

A surprise visitor to a Vermont porch was captured on home video. This time of year it can be a common sight in the Green Mountains. Just this week, a Channel 3 viewer sent in a photo of another bear on a different porch to our Facebook page.

"This is the most critical time for bears in search of food," Vt. Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Pat Berry said.

Berry says these potentially dangerous sightings are most common this time of year as the state's 6,000 bears-- hungry from hibernation and still waiting for mid-summer berries-- start exploring Vermonters' backyards.

And now, new laws in the Sportsmen's Act of 2013 will regulate what people can do in these close encounters. Among the changes, it will be illegal to feed bears, something that was actually never against the law. And people must now take nonlethal steps to get rid of nuisance bears first before being able to kill them, like taking down birdfeeders and fencing in gardens. Though there are two exceptions. One, if the bear threatens people.

"If the bear is coming through the screen in your back porch or is near your child out in the backyard, absolutely. You can protect yourself and you can protect your loved ones," Berry said.

The other exception is if the bear threatens crops.

"Because there's not a whole lot you can do; you're not going to fence in a cornfield, and bears love corn," Berry said.

Behind the changes-- the fact that bears are showing up more in suburban areas than ever before, according to Fish and Wildlife.

And the new laws don't just deal with bears. They also ban the importation of wild boars into the state.

"They are incredibly destructive animals," Berry said.

It's a problem places like Peru, N.Y., have been dealing with for years.

"They're also very resilient animals," Berry said. "So, once they establish a population, they can be very hard to get rid of."

There are no wild populations in Vermont yet, but the fear is what they could do to farms in the state.

"If you've ever been to a place where there are wild boar you can look out across the landscape and see the kind of damage they do just to the ground itself," Berry said.

From boars to bears-- new laws changing the wildlife landscape in Vermont.

If someone violates the new regulations, right now Fish and Wildlife says the focus would generally be on properly educating versus punishing.

The laws take effect July 1.

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