It is likely no coincidence that the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) released a report about an increase in bear sightings in Connecticut a week before state Sen. Craig Miner(R-30) introduced a bill—S.B. No. 522— to authorize a bear trophy hunt in Connecticut, the first since 1840. DEEP has a history of stimulating sympathy for a bear hunt in Connecticut as it would be a money maker for the agency.
Friends of Animals is appalled by this desperate attempt for a trophy hunt and we need your help to make sure this bill does not move forward. Please contact your legislators in the House and Senate and tell them you want bears in Connecticut left alone. To find an online directory of legislators, click here.
You can also contact Sen. Miner directly by calling 1-800-842-1421 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him his bill is inappropriate and you oppose it.
FoA believes the public should know that Sen. Miner is co-chair of the Connecticut Sportsmen’s Caucus, whose mission is to work with Congress, governors and state legislatures to advance hunting, angling and trapping. Friends of Animals encourages the majority of non-hunters in Connecticut to use their voices and contact their legislators and tell them not to move this unnecessary bill forward. It’s bad enough that only 1.4 percent of Connecticut’s population hunts, yet hunting of other wildlife is allowed in all but three of the state’s 32 forests.
DEEP’s report is not based on science, and doesn’t factor in that every bear sighting is not necessarily a different bear. Moreover, DEEP is not even sure how many black bears are in Connecticut, its website reports: The resident population is estimated to be in the hundreds. The majority of the population inhabits northwestern Connecticut. And while the recent report suggests more bears were seen across the state in 2016 than in previous years, it does not say there have been more human/ bear conflicts.
If the number of bears in the state is actually increasing, there’s no need to sound the alarm bells and have a shoot-first mentality. What is needed is for DEEP to step up its education program about what to do when you encounter a black bear, especially in towns like Southbury, New Milford, Woodbury and Oxford, where more bears are supposedly being seen.
What Friends of Animals has observed is a failure by DEEP to provide signage and education where the public might encounter bears such as nature preserves and forests where people hike. On its website the agency offers “Be Bear Aware” signage for people to print out, but that is not going to do a hiker any good when he or she is out in the woods and comes across a mom and her cub foraging for food in the spring.
Also DEEP does not seem to promote the use of bear-resistant containers in areas located in black bear habitat under certain circumstances, including garbage collection. Bears can be opportunistic feeders and easily develop a taste for human foods and garbage. This common sense practice is now used in states with much greater bear populations, such as Alaska and California. In those states, removing easy access to human foods through the use of bear-resistant garbage cans has proven to reduce human interaction with bears.
Connecticut legislators cannot ignore that the 2010 U.S. Census revealed that Connecticut had a population of 3,574,097 people. Our state crams a significant amount of people into just 5,543 square miles—there are about 738.1 people for every square mile, ranking Connecticut fourth place in the U.S. in terms of population density.
And since humans are constantly encroaching on wildlife habitat, it is up to us to change our behaviors to be good neighbors to the bears and other wildlife we share our crowded state with.