By Kenneth R. Gosselin
As a 10-year-old boy mauled by a black bear Sunday recovers, there could be a renewed push in the state legislature to set firm legal boundaries in defending against bears when life or property is threatened.
A dozen legislative proposals over the past decade, covering everything from bear hunting lotteries to allowing farmers to protect livestock and crops have gone nowhere. Meanwhile, the black bear population in Connecticut has doubled to 1,200 in the same period.
“It’s certainly possible that a tragic incident like this will have us have some of those hard conversations,” Jenny Dickson, wildlife division director at state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said Monday. “We are seeing a lot of questions from the public about what we do and don’t do when it comes to bears.”
Darien-based Friends of Animals late Monday condemned any move to use the incident in Morris to press for a bear hunting season.
“As we wait for more details to emerge, this must be a teaching moment so residents are kept safe and black bears aren’t needlessly killed,” Priscilla Feral, the organization’s president, said, in a statement. “This family lives where bears live, and they need to be extra cautious this time of year with children and pets.”
Feral said this time of year bears may be looking for food up to 20 hours a day, as they prepare for winter. Feral said residents should make yards less attractive as a source for food, by making bears uncomfortable. Air horns, banging pots and pans as well as yelling can create a sense of danger for bears and encourage them to avoid the area, Feral said.
Bears were once plentiful in Connecticut, up until the late 1800s when farms increasingly took away the natural habitat of bears and they became scarce in the state.
Connecticut’s bear population began to climb in the 1990s as more of the state was no longer used for agriculture and was returning to being forests. Along with the lack of natural predators, female bears now have litters of 2, 3, or 4 cubs, most of whom live to maturity. And once concentrated in the Northwest corner of Connecticut, bear populations have expanded to most parts of the state.