Bears in Our Sugarwoods

bear bite of maple syrup line

The summer of 2023 must have been very good for bears in Northern Vermont.  We saw quite a few bears and saw signs (scat, foot prints, scratch post, etc) of many more.  We don't usually have any problems with bears, we collect sap from the sugar maple trees and the bears go about their business being bears.  Occasionally an inquisitive bear will bite through the plastic lines we use to collect sap. This causes a vacuum and sap leak and we have to go out into the woods and isolate the problem and repair it. But this isn't too often and mostly we feel responsible for taking good care of our land knowing wildlife like bears rely on a healthy forest for their survival. One of the nice thing about maple sugaring is that we can get a great product like maple syrup while at the same time leaving the forest raw and natural wildlife.


bear scratch on beech tree

One of the main sources of food for our bears is beach nuts.  Since beech trees compete with sugar maple trees for resources it's tempting to cut all the beech trees down.  We don't do this, and our forester ensures we keep an adequate number of beech trees and other trees in our forest to have a diverse and resilient ecosystem. Bears climb the beech trees in the fall and scratch marks from their claws can often be seen on the gray bark of the beech trees.  Once the bears get 20-30' up the tree they find a comfortable fork to wedge into and they slowly cut the small branches around them and pull them in to get at the beech nuts.  Over time a large pile of dead branches will collect up in the tree.  These are known as "bear nests".    The bears don't actually sleep in them, but they do resemble the nest of a big bird like a blue heron.  


bear scat in our Vermont maple Sugarbush

Berries seem to be another major food source for our bears.  This year wild raspberries were plentiful (we collected enough for several pies) along with chokecherries. 

All in all it was a great summer for wildlife and we feel lucky being able to observe it.  

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