Vermont Woman Faces Charges for Using Bear Spray on Hunters

by Sean Griffin

According to WCAX, the Vermont CBS affiliate, a woman attacked three hunters by using bear spray on them. One of the hunters was the former president of the Vermont Bear Hound Association, and he was accompanied by two companions.

The woman, Liza Nanni, 61, was charged with assault, disorderly conduct, and interfering with a hunter.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife reports that on July 10, Nanni allegedly blocked Red Brook Road in Groton State Forest when the group pulled up in their pickup truck. The hunting dogs sat in the truck. Nanni stopped them.

Allegedly, Nanni pepper-sprayed the hunters, one of whom was a thirteen-year-old boy.

Wardens say they interviewed all present parties and also viewed video recordings of the incident.

“Managing Vermont’s wildlife for a public with diverse values is a challenge and a privilege,” Vermont Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Christopher Herrick said in a statement. “I support all Vermonters with their shared passion for wildlife. No matter how different our practices or approaches may be, we all must remain civil and respectful as we enjoy the outdoors. I strongly condemn the criminal behavior that occurred in Groton.”

Nanni will appear in court in September. Bear hound training season runs from June 1 through September 15 in the state of Vermont. However, bear hunting with hounds opens September 1 for residents and September 15 for non-residents.

Victim Recalls Being Bear-Sprayed by Nanni

Ellsworth “Butch” Spear, one of the victims, spoke to a local newspaper about the incident.

“My first words to her were to ask her to get out of the road,” Spear told the Vermont newspaper Seven Days. “She told me to go F myself and a bunch of other things. She ended up pepper spraying all three of us.” 

Field & Stream breaks down how hound-hunting has become increasingly contentious in Vermont.

“Hunting with hounds has been a divisive issue in Vermont,” the outlet writes. “Spear has been a high-profile defender of the season against efforts by animal rights groups to end the practice. A bill to ban bear-hunting with hounds failed in the state legislature recently, with state wildlife officials defending the practice as a Vermont tradition and an important tool for keeping bears wary of humans.”

Also, apparently, conflicts between bears and people have risen for a decade. By 2011, 135 encounters occurred, whereas 650 occurred last year in 2021. Moreover, more than 700 reports have been submitted this year, and it’s only halfway over. “The VFWD has been reminding Vermonters to be more vigilant about securing vehicles, homes, and outdoor food sources from bears,” the article writes.

Jaclyn Comeau, a Vermont wildlife biologist and Black Bear Project leader, talks about the increase in high-risk behavior by bears.

“We are receiving more bear incident reports, and more concerningly, we are also receiving more reports of truly high-risk behavior by bears,” she said. “In a typical year, we receive just two or three reports of bears breaking into homes. This summer, we are hearing of two to three attempted or successful home entries per week.”