Forest Service urges caution, offers bear safety tips

MANCHESTER — Forest Service officials in Vermont announced on August 5 that they have had several reports of bear sightings, bears approaching and entering shelters, and some reports of bears aggressively getting into backpacks to find food. The Forest Service has had numerous reports of bear sightings throughout June and July. This week the agency began posting alert notices at trail shelters and at developed campsites to notify recreation users about the recent spike in bear activity in the Manchester Ranger District of the Green Mountain National Forest.

Reports of human encounters with black bears continue to increase across the Green Mountain National Forest. While many visitors and campers never encounter a bear, bears can quickly become habituated to human food and waste. People recreating in the Forest must keep a clean campsite to ensure that bears and other animals don’t forage for their food. Be sure to properly store all food and odorous items, including toothpaste, condiments such as ketchup and mustard, food wrappers, pet food, and anything else that may attract bears. Improperly stored food not only attracts bears to people currently camping at a site but also lets the bear know that it can find food at that campsite in the future. The bear may return to the site when other families are recreating there.

“We’ve had several reports of bear activity this year, especially around the Somerset area,” said

Manchester District Ranger Martina Barnes. “For now, the campsite in the area has remained open, but we are counting on visitors to be diligent with their food storage. We prefer not to close recreation sites; however, if bear encounters continue or increase, we will need to for the public’s safety. Awareness and proper food storage makes a world of difference.”

It is illegal in the State of Vermont to feed bears. The Green Mountain National Forest Food Storage Regulation requires visitors to store unattended food in bear-resistant containers, in a vehicle, or suspend food at least twelve (12) feet off the ground and not less than six (6) feet horizontally from any object. 

In addition, all refuse containing food materials or containers shall be deposited in receptacles provided for that purpose, removed from the Green Mountain National Forest to be disposed of properly, or stored in the manner prescribed for food.

Too often, visitors believe they have stored their food safely, but in reality, they have left it within a bear’s reach. Bears are meant to be wild, and access to human food sources creates negative consequences for them. Bears that get too used to people may eventually have to be killed to ensure human safety. Following safe food storage practices protects both visitors and the bears. All recreationists have a responsibility to ensure their safety and that of future campers by not:

  • Purposefully or inadvertently feeding bears. Given this, please remember:
  • Always keep a clean camp.
  • Don’t leave any food (including condiments and pet food) out when not in use.
  • Store food in bear-resistant units, hard-shelled vehicles, or car trunks.
  • Keep sleeping areas, tents, and sleeping bags free of food and odor (like toothpaste or deodorant).
  • Don’t sleep in clothes you cooked or handled fish or game in.
  • Never bury or burn food waste.
  • If camping in the backcountry, hang your food bag at least 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet out from a tree limb that could support a bear, or better yet, pack and use bear-resistant containers.
  • If possible, in backcountry areas, place sleeping tents at least 100 yards away from food storage and cooking areas.

Persons should report bear sightings or damage caused by bears to their nearest Vermont Fish & 

Wildlife office (802) 828-1000 or a local Vermont State Game Warden at (802) 442-5421 prior to taking any control action on their own. Vermont Fish & Wildlife personnel will recommend

appropriate measures or control strategies to alleviate bear-related problems.

Share this story:
Back to Top