Back-to-back poor acorn crops mean hungrier bears

Norm Senna photo

In a development that may well mean more bear invasions of human living space, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department biologists report the second consecutive bad acorn crop.

Every year, biologists survey oak and beech stands around the state each fall to assess how plentiful acorns and beechnuts are because they are important fall foods for wildlife.

“Acorn surveys ranged from poor to fair statewide with an overall rating of poor,” said bear biologist Jaclyn Comeau.  “Acorn availability was also poor in 2022.  This is only the fourth time Vermont has experienced two consecutive years with poor acorn crops since surveys began in 1989.”

“Beechnut surveys were excellent on average, but there was dramatic regional variation,” said Comeau.  “Surveys across the Northeast Kingdom indicated little to no beechnut production while surveys throughout the rest of northern and central Vermont were poor to excellent.  But, beechnut surveys across southern Vermont were consistently excellent, pulling the statewide average up to the third highest since beechnut surveys began in 1988.”

In areas where acorns or beechnuts are not abundant many of Vermont’s wildlife species will be on the move looking for alternative food options before winter, and some bears will enter winter dens early.

“But no matter where you live, it is important for Vermonters to remain diligent about securely storing common bear attractants such as garbage and birdseed until winter conditions arrive and all bears enter their dens,” added Comeau.  “We recommend waiting until December when snow is on the ground before putting out bird feeders.”

Vermont Fish and Wildlife has lots of helpful information about living with black bears on its website.

Categories: Outdoors

3 replies »

  1. Whatever happened to Butternut trees ? Whe I was a kid, there were quite a few around. Now ? I have one in front of my house that has not had a butternut at least since I built here 11 years ago. Walnut trees ? The only one I have seen around that still fruits is on the bank, on west end of the State House Should we be “diversifying” our nuts, ya know the ones that grow in the trees ? (We already have too many of the other ones !)

  2. We have had so many acorns at our property in Leicester Vermont from these mighty oaks. We filled two 5 gallon pails this year. We had butternut trees that produced a lot of nuts two years ago. Maybe the Vermont Fish and Game Biologists aren’t looking in the right places.

  3. A question or two for the bear biologist: why not allow more harvest of bears in areas like the NEK where food sources are scarce, bear populations are heavy and residential damage to domestic fruit trees are occurring? I have had damage to apple trees as well as many of our other town residents . Like the deer biologists increasing the number of does that a be harvested by a single hunter ( providing they have all the right permitted tags of course), in particular WMUs.
    , why not do it for bears? Or is there a way to slow bear reproduction, since nobody like hounds anymore to run bears off populated areas? I live in a rural part of the NEK that borders a Wildlife management area as well as a largely wooded area. Last year (2022) just during muzzle loader deer hunting, my husband spotted four separate sow/cub groups that totalled 10 bears in the small square mileage area he hunted. I’m no biologist, but that seems much too many bears, and as most do not want to kill a female, leaving her cubs to die ( obviously), ; I wonder if there are other mitigation measures being researched.