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St. Albans neighborhood dealing with bears

While bears are usually harmless, one St. Albans neighborhood says they’re cleaning up after them year after year.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 6:18 AM EDT|Updated: May. 24, 2022 at 6:23 AM EDT
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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - Residents of one neighborhood in St. Albans say a bear is dumping people’s trash cans and taking out gates.

Vermont has anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 bears and spring is the time of year people start to see them more.

While they’re usually harmless, residents of one St. Albans neighborhood say they’re cleaning up after the bears year after year.

“Last year, I had the bear literally crash through the gate,” said Karen Marie Peltier, who owns the Back Inn Time Bed & Breakfast. “Not once, but twice.”

Just last week, Peltier took the time to repair the gate leading to their outdoor garden space. Now, she and her neighbors are dealing with it again.

One neighbor, Erik Johnson, says a bear comes to their yard looking for food, going as far as dumping out trash and compost bins. He caught video of it on his Ring camera.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Bear Biologist Jaclyn Comeau says so far this year, there have been 157 reports of bear sightings. She says it’s not the bear population that’s gone up, but that they’re learning where to find high-calorie meals.

“We know garbage is the biggest attractant for bears, and bird feeders are the other biggest ones,” Comeau explained.

She recommends people bring in feeders, secure trash and compost, and feed their pets indoors to avoid attracting bears.

Jennifer Williamson says she brings her feeders in, but there was one day her neighbors didn’t, and the bear wandered to her yard to scope out an empty one.

“It had nothing in it. It was just the feeder itself,” Williamson said. “It was dark and I heard a crash; when I looked out, there was a bear in my yard.”

Comeau says once bears know where the food is, it takes years for them to stop returning. Comeau says it’s unlikely they’ll euthanize the bear. She says they only resort to that when they become a public danger with acts like breaking into homes and attacking people or livestock.

While some St. Albans residents say they’d like to see the bear relocated, Comeau says that would be too difficult. She says they would have to bring it hundreds of miles to keep it from returning and most places in Vermont already have dense bear populations.

If there is a bear in your yard, Comeau says the best thing you can do is make it uncomfortable by scaring it with loud noises. You can find more guidance about keeping bears away and report sightings on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Website.

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