MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Wildlife experts say bears around our region are making an early appearance this year. Our Ike Bendavid talked with Vermont Fish and Wildlife to find out why this is happening and what impact it might have.
Reporter Ike Bendavid: Are you getting calls about bears in early February?
Sgt. Chad Barrett/Vermont game warden: We are this year, normally we don't.
Barrett oversees the Waterbury district.
"Some people have been seeing sightings of bears, people have been seeing some prints in the snow around their houses," Barrett said.
It's just not in Central Vermont.
"All around the state," said Forrest Hammond, a bear biologist with Vermont Fish and Wildlife.
Black bear project leader Hammond says despite last week's snowstorm, it's been a mild winter overall. And last year, bears had it good, with readily available food. Hammond says that may be on their minds as they wake up and leave their dens early searching for a snack this year.
"I don't think bears like denning up for the most part and they den up mostly because there just isn't food available," Hammond said.
Hammond thinks the bears that have been seen wandering around the state will go back and find shelter when they realize spring food sources are not yet available.
Overall, he points to a long-term rise in population but says there were more bears just 10 years ago. The reason sightings have gone up is because year-round, the bears are moving closer to where they can find food.
"They are not in the mountains as much. They moved into the valleys where there are a lot more people," Hammond explained.
Which is a reminder to secure things like your trash, bird feeders and compost.
"If you had a visit from a bear last year, get ready for a visit this year," Hammond warned.
Which has wardens like Barrett ready to field more calls this season.
"I think they are figuring out that there are a lot more food sources available to them where there is a populous of people," Barrett said.