Friends of Animals is urging Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont to oppose a bear hunt in the state and strengthen regulations to help mitigate bear-human conflicts.

In a letter hand-delivered to Lamont, FoA as well as CT Votes for Animals and the CT Chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, asked the governor to oppose legislation being proposed that would allow a hunt. The groups noted that pro-hunt advocates stoking black bear sightings as evidence of a need for a hunt are painting an inaccurate picture of an onslaught of marauding bears. A recent survey of the state’s black bears commissioned by Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection revealed that Connecticut’s bear population isn’t the problem. The real issue is that CT residents are living in closer proximity to bears in exurban areas and the state needs better regulations and educational outreach.

Though state officials say there were more than 7,000 bear sightings from 2017-2018, the figure doesn’t acknowledge that every bear sighting is not a different bear. Further, while DEEP is also reporting that the number of adult bears and cubs has grown to 800, and is increasing by 10 percent each year, there is no current bear count that proves it. 

“DEEP is exaggerating and extrapolating the numbers. Every time they mention bears they add another 100 to the tally rather than subtract a single one that succumbed to natural cause,’’ Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral said. “Allowing a black bear hunt, which has been outlawed in the state since the 1800s, would amount to nothing more than a state-sanctioned trophy hunt to please a dwindling number of hunters and an effort to pump up DEEP’s revenues from hunting licenses.”

Whatever the population of bears, there is a weak correlation between their numbers and bear attacks, according to a study in The Journal of Wildlife Management. Bear-human conflict is more closely correlated with human behavior and hunting bears does not resolve those issues that lead to problems. Bears are naturally shy and conflicts between bears and humans can be mitigated with common sense solutions, such as stronger laws against the intentionally feeding of bears, leaving out attractants such as bird feeders and unsecured garbage cans and inadequate fencing of livestock.

There have been no fatal bear attacks in Connecticut and only six in the entire country between 2010 and 2017, mostly in Alaska. Hunting, however, has caused more injuries and fatalities. Hunters in Connecticut killed 10 people and injured 118 in hunting accidents between 1982-2018.

DEEP already has a nuisance bear program to deal with problem bear, the letter noted. Rather than enact a shoot-first hunt in a state weary of gun violence, Connecticut should strengthen its regulations and promote a vigorous education campaign on how residents and bears can coexist, the groups said.

Gov. Lamont has not made a public statement about his position on a bear hunt, which hasn’t occurred in the state since 1800s. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has banned bear hunting on state property.