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Proposed bear-hunt bill goes to hearing

March 21, 2013 | Bears / Hunting & Wildlife Management

Danbury News Times

Robert Miller

Priscilla Feral, the president of Friends of Animals, said Thursday that her group doesn't believe the
bill has a "snowball's chance in hell'' of passing. But, she said, Friends of Animals will watch the proposed legislation's progress and lobby against it, if needed.

Black bears, coming out of hibernation, might want to plod over the Legislative Office Building in Hartford before chowing down on their first spring meal.

Their future -- which might involve facing hunters with high-powered rifles -- is up for discussion. The General Assembly's Environment Committee will hold a hearing Friday on establishing bear hunting in the state.

A proposed bear-hunting bill may be premature. Dennis Schain, spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the DEEP and the University of Connecticut have begun a four-year study of black bears in Connecticut that they will complete in 2016.

"The most appropriate course of action is to delay'' Schain said Thursday, noting that the study will include work on black bear management.

However, State Sen. Clark Chapin, R-New Milford, said this is the first time in his 13 years in the Legislature that a bill creating a bear hunt has gotten this far.

"There's been talk, but never a public hearing,'' Chapin said Thursday.

State Sen. Ed Meyer, D- Guilford, the Environment Committee chairman, said the committee was considering the bill for one main reason: the number of black bears in the state.

"We've been getting reports of bears throughout the state,'' Meyer said. "They appear to be a nuisance.''

The bill in question doesn't call for a hunt. Instead, it asks the DEEP to file a report by February 2014 on how to create a lottery system for bear hunting.

With that system, Meyer said, hunters would pay $10 to get a chance for a bear license. If they won, they'd pay an additional $200 to get the license. Meyer said the DEEP would also have to determine how many black bears could be killed each year and which rural towns in the state's northwest and northeast corners would be the places where hunters could shoot bears.

"We won't be holding bear hunts in any cities,'' Meyer said.

Priscilla Feral, the president of Friends of Animals, said Thursday that her group doesn't believe the bill has a "snowball's chance in hell'' of passing. But, she said, Friends of Animals will watch the proposed legislation's progress and lobby against it, if needed.

"It's a preposterous bill,'' she said.

Feral said no one knows how many black bears actually live in the state. Estimates range from 500 to 1,000.

However, she said, her organization believes the DEEP should be teaching people to coexist with the black bear population in Connecticut -- whatever the number might be.

"We're dead against it,'' she said of any talk of a hunt.

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