Bear Problems on the Rise in Connecticut; Could a Bear-Hunting Season Be Far Off?

Sep 14, 2012

Encounters between humans and bears are on the rise in Connecticut, and some of them could be dangerous. That’s prompting environmental officials to consider allowing a regular bear-hunting season for the first time ever in the state. WNPR’s Neena Satija reports.

Connecticut has never had an official bear-hunting season before. In fact, before the 1980s, the state hardly had any bears. Now, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimates that several hundred black bears call Connecticut home – and that the population will double every five to seven years.

The DEEP spends $250,000 a year responding to calls from residents concerned about bears. Wildlife biologist Jason Hawley says this is not very practical. In New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, bear-hunting is legal, and the animals are hunted for their meat and hide.

“it’s kind of wasteful when we go in and euthanize bears because they just go to waste, whereas when hunters take them, they’re actually used.”

In the next few years, the DEEP will most likely recommend a bear-hunting season. Bob Crook is chief executive and lobbyist for the Connecticut Coalition of Sportsmen. He says the state should be bringing in money through bear-hunting permits rather than spending it on euthanizing bears.

“They’ve got to investigate, they’ve got to set up traps, they’ve got to euthanize some of the animals…all of this takes money. And that’s our money.”

Black bears live mostly in the Northwest corner of the state, but they’re on the move to more populated areas. Just last week the DEEP had to euthanize a bear in Madison. A homeowner was filming the bear from the comfort of his living room – when the bear suddenly began to approach him in a manner that was deemed aggressive. Euthanizing the bear was a tough call, says Hawley. The agency tries to use pepper spray on the bear before killing it. But that doesn’t always work.

“For some people, if a bear looks at them that’s aggressive. For other people, it would take a bear charging at that for that bear to be aggressive. But this person happened to take video of it. When we saw the video, we just determined that was unacceptable behavior.”

If the DEEP does recommend a hunting season, it will have to be approved by the legislature.

Read more at the Connecticut Mirror.