We have growing concern over a new bill that was introduced in Connecticut this year involving the population of black bears in the state. On the surface, HB 5315, seems like a decently acceptable bill as it advocates for punishing landowners who are feeding black bears...but a closer look reveals different motives. The fact that the Environment Committee of the General Assembly introduced a bill to stop people from feeding black bears in CT on behalf of the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, proves there is something wrong with the DEEP’s educational outreach about black bears.
If DEEP was effectively reaching out to the public, especially in areas considered bear habitat, the public would already know bears are attracted to garbage, pet food, compost piles, fruit trees and bird feeders around houses. Especially after March when bears come out of hibernation. By including bird feeders in the poorly constructed bill, DEEP is pitting bird-watchers against bears for hunting propaganda purposes. A look at their educational outreach program on their website shows that they’re doing next to nothing when it comes to educating the public.
Friends of Animals is adamant that HB 5315 should not be supported as it’s an attempt to pave the way for CT DEEP to institute a bear hunting season—as its testimony at the public hearing for the bill included language about how populations of bears and coyotes are on the rise in the state and so are negative interactions with the public. The truth is, and DEEP admits this— it isn’t sure how many black bears are in CT, however a bear hunt would be a money maker for DEEP.
DEEP admitted in their 2015 wildlife management plan that their budget and staffing levels have been in steady decline and they are essentially desperate for additional funding. Imposing fines on the general public instead of educating them is one way they’d make money. But the real money maker for DEEP, which is beholden to hunters and trappers in the state, would be to re-introduce a bear hunt in CT and rake in profits from hunting licenses.
In fact, hunters aren’t being shy about these real motives. Bob Crook, a lobbyist for the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, believes a better tally of the state’s bear population will provide concrete evidence to support calls for a state bear-hunting season, telling The Hartford Courant "If [black bears] are over-populated, it's a detriment to the animals themselves," said Crook. He added that a bear-hunting season "would be a money-maker for DEEP" at a time when when Connecticut's environmental agency is expecting even further budget cuts.
In Florida, New Jersey and New Hampshire similar bills that increased fines/penalties for inadvertently feeding bears passed and were followed by allowing bear hunts in those states. We cannot allow CT to follow a similar path.
Speak out against this bill that is detrimental to Connecticut’s bear population and tell your state legislators they should say no to the bill, no to the fines, and YES to more public education. Find your House representatives by clicking here and contact the bill's co-sponsors below as well.
Representative Russell Morin of the 28th: Phone 860-240-8500
Representative Mary Mushinsky of the 85th: Phone 860-240-8585