Following a record-breaking year of home invasions by bears, with 2022 seeing more than double the average number of break-ins recorded in recent years, state lawmakers are once again considering the idea of bear hunting to quell populations.
Rep. Karen Reddington-Hughes (R-Woodbury) introduced a bill proposing a bear hunting season in the northwestern part of the state. The text of the bill is concise: “to establish a black bear hunting season in northwestern Connecticut through a lottery-style system.”
However, opposition to hunting bears has already mounted in the legislature and online. At the capitol, representatives David Michel (D-Stamford) and Nicole Klarides-Ditria (R-Derby), introduced a bill proposing alternative methods of deterring bear intrusions. The bill would ban feeding bears, provide a grant program to use nonlethal methods to prevent human-bear conflicts and establish a fund to compensate farmers for damages to their property.
Online, a petition is circulating in support of the creation of a bear sanctuary to prevent bear deaths. The petition is addressed to the Conn2ecticut State Legislature and has received over 40,000 signatures with an overall goal of 45,000.
“Bear habitats are changing – and a lot of that is thanks to humans. As more sprawling developments cut into bear territory, bears’ access to prey changes dramatically,” the petition states. “This makes bear-human interactions much more likely, sadly putting more bears at risk for euthanization.”
Human-bear interactions have been on the rise across the state. In 2022, bear sightings were up over 20 percent from the previous year, according to data from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). In October, a 10-year-old boy was attacked by a bear in his backyard in Morris. The boy’s injuries were not life-threatening, but the bear was euthanized.
However, the bears that have become habituated to human food sources like bird feeders and trash needn’t die, the petition argues.
“The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in Montana is addressing this problem [human-bear interactions] by providing sanctuary for bears who would otherwise be euthanized after encounters with humans,” the petition states. “Creating a bear sanctuary like the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center would not only save bear lives, it would also create an opportunity to educate the public about these amazing mammals!”
In exchange for free room and board, the troublemaking bears that end up being relocated to the sanctuary ultimately serve as product testers for companies that manufacture bear-resistant products.