This was first published in the Herald of Randolph May 21, 2015.
Bob Young has been raising pigs for years and has never had a problem with bears. This spring, however, he’s been having a big problem with one large and hungry male black bear who has come back several times.
Last Saturday morning, Young discovered that two of eight piglets were missing from their pen. Soon he found one piglet dead, buried under leaves right behind the pen. One very lucky surviving piglet had claw marks on her back, so Young knew this was the work of a black bear. The bear carried the other missing piglet up and over the steep hill behind the pen and into the woods.
Young called Game Warden Keith Gallant, who came immediately to investigate the damage. “Fantastic” is how Young describes Gallant. He checked everything thoroughly and offered helpful information and advice on how to deter the bear in future. Gallant suggested using carpet tack strips, which are studded with sharp nails, all along the wooden fence that surrounds the pig pen.
It was very good advice, says Young. Since he put up the tack strips, he’s found evidence that the bear did not much appreciate its encounter with them. The six surviving piglets, along with two new ones, were still alive and well on Tuesday evening.
Young also called on houndsman Church Tabor, who trains dogs to hunt bears and other game. Tabor needed permission from Gallant to run his dogs since it is not legal to do so until June 1, and Gallant granted permission in the hope that the madly howling dogs would scare the bear away. On Saturday morning, Tabor’s hounds tracked the bear’s path for about a mile to Trout Brook Road, before losing the scent.
The hungry bear returned that night to claim the buried pig, carrying it across Gilead Brook Road and the brook itself before leaving it on a neighbor’s lawn. Young had kept watch on top of the hill behind the pen until midnight, but the bear didn’t show up until after he’d gone to bed. Tabor’s hounds were back very early Sunday morning to track the bear again and, Young hoped, scare it off for good. Bob’s mother, Shirley Young, reported that the bear also broke into a chest freezer kept in an outdoor shed. It was able to get a loaf of bread and some vegetables out from under the heavy freezer door, tearing through the insulation in the process, but it left the frozen food mostly untouched on the ground.
After that unsuccessful attempt, it entered a barn where Bob keeps his beekeeping supplies. There it took several frames out of a hive, eating the honey and breaking the frames.
When the bear came back again on Sunday night, it found the barn door screwed shut and reinforced with extra boards, so the persistent animal chewed through some boards and pulled others off in its pursuit of more honey.
The Youngs say the bear has not been back since encountering the carpet tack strips on Sunday night. However, Bob continues to harvest honey and does not want to lose more piglets, so he’s taking further measures to protect them, including securing the hives and the pen behind electric fencing, as recommended by Gallant.
The VT Fish & Wildlife’s website reminds us that purposely feeding bears is illegal in the state and offers this information for Vermonters who have assets that may be attractive to hungry bears:
• Keep chickens and honeybees secure within an electric fence or other bear-proof enclosure.
• Never feed bears, deliberately or accidentally.
• Feed pets indoors.
• Do not feed birds April 1-November 30. Bringing feeders in at night doesn’t work, because of seed spilled on the ground.
• Store trash in a secure place. Trash cans alone are not bearproof.
Fish & Wildlife also asks that you use a form on their website to report any incidents you may have with Vermont’s bears.