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OPINION: When a bear shows up, show respect

It seems like just about everyone in Connecticut has a story about the time they saw a bear.

Bears show up in all kinds of places. Backyard trampolines and cupcake shops are two unusual recent sightings. A Plainville resident had one sleeping under his deck last winter. As widely reported in the news, he made sure the bear was left alone and not disturbed. A few years back, Southington had a bear roaming its downtown and a couple of weeks ago one wandered into downtown Hartford. Apparently, even busy commercial areas are not off limits. Another instance was that time a bear wandered through the automatic doors at Crazy Bruce’s liquor Store in Bristol.

Home break-ins involving bears are another example of bear-human interactions. A bear was euthanized after it broke into a Bloomfield home last week. A bear biting or otherwise attacking a pet or even a human are the kind of incidents that, although quite uncommon, are stark reminders that as amusing as bears may seem to us these are wild animals. Some weight up to 400 pounds, they’re often hungry, might have cubs to protect and are trying to survive in an ever shrinking habitat.

State statistics reveal that there were more than 10,500 bear sightings in 2022 and more than 3,600 reports of damage that year. That’s an all time high, according to a recent story in The Connecticut Mirror.

The legislature is looking at how to handle this situation. A hunt was discussed and while that’s not currently on the table, other solutions are. The Mirror outlined the status of what the Senate passed along to the House. The proposed bill would allow farmers to get a bear hunting permit to prevent crop or livestock destruction. Intentional feeding of bears would be banned and there would be penalties.

Are any other ideas being explored by wildlife scientists? Could feeding stations in deep woods reduce bears scavenging in neighborhoods? Could some young bears be selected for neutering to reduce the population?

Six bears, a gang that appeared to be one adult and five yearlings, wandered through my yard not long ago and loitered in the neighborhood, scavenging for food in several trash bins at nearby houses. A visit by bears always causes excitement and what occurred during this incident demonstrates some of the reasons the growing bear population is cause for concern.

One guy tried to pat a young bear as it climbed his stockade fence, the bear hissed and the man backed off. A work-from-home mom came out in the yard with her two young kids to see the bears — the animals roamed just a few feet from the steps where the family stood. Another neighbor kept raking leaves as a bear pulled bags out of a nearby trash can. I tried to get a photo of that bear and took one step too close, causing the bear to lurch towards me, hissing, and sending me running back into the house. Later, I heard how one resident tried to hand feed a bear, sticking a hand out a backdoor with food as the bear passed by.

What’s described here is not a bear problem so much as it is a human problem. Every single action taken was not smart (also known as stupid) and we knew better — or should have. DEEP has done a lot to educate people on how to live with bears. It’s up to us to internalize that information.

A bear sighting sends adrenaline soaring. It is thrilling and terrifying all at once to see these magnificent animals in our midst. While dangerous human-bear encounters may require a forceful response, including killing the animal, it’s up to humans to do all they can to prevent that outcome. As that wise Plainville resident did, we all need to step back, reduce contact and let the bears be.

Reach Olivia Lawrence at livbyron4000@ gmail.com.


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