Burlington trail remains closed after bold bear approaches, follows hiker

BURLINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — A hiking trail in Burlington will remain closed Monday after a woman’s close call with a bear shortly after noon on Friday.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) says the approximately one-and-a-half-year-old, 150-pound male bear approached a hiker in the Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area and followed her. They say the bear circled her when she stopped walking, and its mouth made contact with her leg.

“His teeth scared the hell out of me,” Stephanie Rivkin said. “I thought he was going to take my leg muscle out all in one bite.”

Rivkin says she felt she was a safe distance from the two bears when they came out of the woods and started recording them. They kept coming closer and she froze. Eventually, the bears left and she was able to back out of the woods.

“After that, I took a good 10 minutes in my car and sat there and thanked God for letting me get out alive,” Rivkin said.

She went to a DEEP building at the wildlife management area and showed Connecticut Environmental Conservation Police her video.

“DEEP staff had a chance to talk with this woman after her encounter with the bear. We are relieved she was not injured,” DEEP spokesperson Dennis Schain said in a press release. “This was certainly an unusual incident as bears do not often approach people.”

DEEP says wildlife staff immediately closed the trails after seeing the video and went out to find and euthanize the bear because they said it was exhibiting dangerous signs.

“The ranger was very concerned about the bear’s behavior after watching the video, behavior I would never have known to be scared of,” Rivkin said. “The hairs on the bear’s back was standing up straight and apparently when they put a paw forward it’s aggressive.”

DEEP says they couldn’t find the bear before it disappeared into the woods. However, they say a trap has been set and the bear will be euthanized when there is an opportunity to do so.

“That is the appropriate action to take after seeing this bear’s behavior,” DEEP said in a release.

DEEP recommends taking an aggressive approach if you encounter a bear.

“Screaming is what scares them away and I didn’t scream,” Rivkin said DEEP told her. “You’re supposed to look big and intimidating.”

According to DEEP, staff had previously put tags on the bear’s ears as part of the agency’s effort to track the bear population. They say records show it was captured and relocated at least one other time.

Signs have been posted at Sessions Woods to notify hikers that the trails are closed until further notice.

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