Bear sightings in the Naugatuck Valley

(WTNH / LaSalle Blanks)

DERBY, Conn. (WTNH) — Derby alderman Art Gerckens got a wild surprise in his backyard last Thursday — a bear.

“I was shocked,” Alderman Art said.

In recent weeks, bear sightings have popped up all over the Naugatuck Valley.

The Shelton Police Department posted a warning on its Facebook page to give residents there a heads up.

Springtime is the time of year when reports of bear sightings spike, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

“The bears are well out of hibernation and pretty active looking for food, looking for mates,” Said Dennis Schain, spokesman for DEEP.

Alderman Art says his bear video got a big response when he posted video of the bear on his Facebook page.

“This is by far the most-viewed story and coincidentally, that same morning, we were up in Hartford getting a five million dollar bond from the state bonding commission for the city of Derby,” he said. “That had a couple hundred views. By comparison, the bear story had over 28,000 views. It’s been shared over 1,600 times.”

According to DEEP, the top Connecticut cities with reported bear sightings in the last 12-month period are: Avon (554), Seymour (25), Waterbury (21), and Naugatuck (20).

“The center of the bear population is really more northwest Connecticut down into the Avon area,” Schain said. “There are fair amounts of sightings in the greater Waterbury area, also lots of woodland, lots of suitable habitat for bear and people seeing them and reporting them.”

Schain says there are things you can do to minimize the chances of bears showing up in your yard.

“If you have a bird feeder in your yard, take it down,” he said. “The birds are fine — there’s plenty of food. Bears like the bird seed, they’ll come into your yard. If you have garbage cans, keep them in your garage or your shed. If they have to be outside, make sure they’re well secured. If you barbecue, make sure you clean up so there are no food scraps that attract the bears or other animals.”

And he says if a bear does wander into your yard, do not feed it and keep your distance — that’s what Alderman Art did and he’s glad his encounter was more wildly exciting than dangerous.

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