A Wilmington homeowner killed a bear with a crossbow after it barged into his kitchen, according to Vermont Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter.
The July 20 incident was a case of a homeowner legally defending himself — and not the only such instance in Vermont this year, Porter said. Game wardens and residents have killed at least nine problem bears so far, the commissioner said.
The Wilmington bear "ripped its way into the screened porch and went into the kitchen through an adjoining doorway," Porter said, adding: "I understand the bear came in twice. It came into the house, left and then came back."
As for why the bear was dispatched with a crossbow? "I suspect it was just what they had on hand," Porter said.
Porter had not yet received the incident narrative from the responding game warden, Richard Watkin. The warden did not immediately respond to a message from Seven Days.
The bear story made the rounds in Wilmington and prompted concerns from resident Tanya Sparano. She sees bears on her property but says she's managed to coexist. "We've kind of invaded their habitat," Sparano said. She wondered whether the property owner had properly secured their trash and whether the bear could have been tranquilized and moved. "I just want to know what steps were taken," Sparano told Seven Days, adding that a crossbow seems "like a weird choice of weapon."
A person defending their safety can legally use any weapon at hand to ward off a bear — whether it's a frying pan or a crossbow. In permitted hunting seasons in Vermont, crossbows are legal for hunters over age 50 and for younger people with a disability.
"They are used for primarily deer hunting in Vermont," said Chris Sanborn, manager of R&L Archery in Barre. He added: "If there's a bear in my kitchen and it's what I had, I would probably use that, too."
Vermont's thriving bear population has led to a raft of such encounters. In July, game wardens euthanized another bear after it ransacked the kitchen of an Underhill home, and they also killed a bear in Glastenbury that ripped into tents and charged a hiker on the Appalachian Trail.
Green Mountain National Forest officials on July 24 issued a rule requiring that people take care to keep their food away from bears.
Once bears become accustomed to human food, it's difficult to change their behavior. The Fish & Wildlife Department generally does not relocate bears because that just moves the problem, Porter said. The state works with homeowners to avoid endings such as the one in Wilmington, Porter added. "But the reality is, when it's a question of potential human safety, that takes precedence."