Be Bear Aware

bear prints

Bear prints in the mud on the Green Mountain National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo by Cassi Spires.

New York and Vermont are home to black bears. While it is possible to encounter a black bear on the trail, most recreationists never do. Preferring wild, unpopulated areas, black bears are typically shy and avoid human interaction. Encounters are more likely at times of reduced food supply, when bears will venture into human occupied areas; think early spring or late fall, but bears are active all year-round.

The best way to avoid a bear encounter is by being diligent about not intentionally or unintentionally feeding the wildlife. Bears are smart; they have incredible memories. They will remember that unaccompanied backpack full of food left on a trail and return to that trailside later. Keep yourself, fellow recreationists, and THE BEAR safe by being bear aware.

A fed bear is a dead bear

Feeding bears habituates them to human interaction and environments such as yards, roadsides, and campsites which ultimately puts them in danger. Please become familiar with the Forest Food Storage Regulation requiring proper food storage and disposal while recreating on the Green Mountain National Forest.

On the trail

  • Keep a clean camp site.
  • Do not store food or any scented items in a tent, including clothing with food residues.
  • Store all food, food containers, and refuse in a closed motor vehicle or suspended 12 feet above ground and 6 feet horizontally distant from any object.
  • The Grizzly Bear Committee has a list of certified bear-resistant products for anyone looking to purchase bear-resistant containers.
  • Where provided, use bear-resistant food lockers and dumpsters or bring your own if required.
  • Never leave food unattended at a campsite.
  • Clean utensils and food prep area thoroughly after cooking.
  • Do not store garbage at camp site. Use a designated dumpster or store it in a bear canister, a closed motor vehicle, or suspend refuse properly.
  • At an undeveloped camping location, cook and store food away from sleeping area.

At home

  • Keep garbage in a secure container.
  • Keep compost in a secure container.
  • Keep pet food indoors.
  • Take down bird feeders between April 1st – December 1st.
  • Clean grills and outdoor tables after every use.
  • Keep bees and chickens within a bear-proof enclosure.

If you encounter a black bear:

  • Remain calm and back away if possible.
  • Ensure the bear has an escape route.
  • Do not run or climb trees to escape
  • If the bear becomes defensive, repeat “hey bear” in a calm voice while backing away.
  • If the bear becomes aggressive, raise your arms, make yourself appear tall, and make loud noises.
  • If the bear touches you, fight with whatever you have.
  • For more black bear safety tips, visit BearWise.
  • Reporting Bear Incidents

    Report a bear incident in New York or Vermont

    In New York, contact the nearest Department of Environmental Conservation's Wildlife Office. In Vermont, file an incident report with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

  • Bear Boxes on the Forest

    Bear Box Green Mountain National Forest

    Bear boxes are provided at some locations on the Green Mountain National Forest. Store all food, toiletries, garbage or anything else that may attract wildlife; and be sure to properly latch the lid.

  • Bear Canister Lending Program

    Green Mountain Club logo

    The Green Mountain Club lends bear canisters on a first-come, first-served basis. Simply check out a canister for your trip and return it to designated pick-up/drop-off locations.