HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimates a ten percent increase in the bear population every year. They said with easy access to food left by us humans, and no natural predators, their numbers continue to soar.
Encounters between humans and black bears in Connecticut are steadily rising, leading to open discussion at the Capitol Monday over a bill that would allow for legalized game hunting of the bear population.
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State Senator Craig Miner (R-Litchfield), represents northwest Connecticut, the area with the highest concentration of black bears.
“I’ve had constituents over a period of time that said to me they’ve lost some livestock,” Miner said. “Some people in this building said they’re a little uneasy about leaving children at the bus station.”
DEEP said there were about 7,000 public bear sightings last year, a fifty percent increase from the year before, nearly 1,000 reports of property damage and 43 bears were killed by passing vehicles, the most ever reported in Connecticut. DEEP is in favor of legalized hunting, saying in a statement:
“It is the opinion of our wildlife biologists that bear hunting – with prudent limitations – is consistent with best practices for wildlife management for Connecticut.”
But not everyone agrees.
“I think this is really premature to say that we want to go out and hunt them,” said State Rep. Diana Urban (D-North Stonington).
Urban said finding ways to co-exist would benefit both growing human and bear populations.
“We continually move into their territory,” Urban said. “So it means we have to think about how do we live there without saying we have to shoot everything.”
Right now black bears are legally hunted in 27 states. We should know within several weeks whether Connecticut will become the 28th state.