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Editorial: Bears in back yards

WESTON EDITORIALBlack bears rarely show aggression toward people and attacks are quite uncommon, state wildlife experts say. These shy bears usually steer clear of us. But, if they find a regular source of food near the places where people live, bears’ fear of humans diminishes and that’s when bears can become a problem.

Over the past 12 months, there have been 2,860 reported bear sightings in Connecticut, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division. There were three separate bears seen in Weston earlier this week.

Upstate towns have been reporting 10 times the bear sightings as the numbers spotted here and in some neighboring towns. In West Hartford, a recent encounter between a bear and a homeowner led to injuries and the bear being put down.

A 200-pound female black bear accompanied by three cubs chased a woman’s small dog in the back yard of her home one morning about a week ago. She said the bear continued to chase the dog as it ran toward the house. The woman tried to protect the dog from the  bear and got the dog, a small terrier breed, into her home, reported the West Hartford News.

While the woman, who sustained a puncture wound and scratches on a leg, was taken to a hospital for treatment and released later the same day, the bear was later euthanized at the Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area and tested for rabies as a precaution. DEEP officials say rabies is not prevalent in black bears.

After being tranquilized, the cubs were taken to an undisclosed wooded area and released. They are older than one year old, and can survive on their own in the wild, DEEP reported.

Bears are attracted to garbage, pet food, compost piles, fruit trees, and birdfeeders. To discourage bears from hanging around your home, people should discontinue use of birdfeeders from now through November (the birds have plenty of food), keep garbage cans inside a garage or shed, clean and store barbecue grills after use, don’t leave pet food outside overnight, and don’t add meat or sweets to a compost pile. Above all, don’t intentionally feed bears.

When a bear appears to exhibit aggressive behavior, contact the Wildlife Division’s Sessions Woods office at 860-675-8130 or DEEP’s 24-hour dispatch line, 860-424-3333.

Black bear sightings provide valuable information to assist the Wildlife Division in monitoring the bear population, and the agency asks anyone who sees one to report the sighting on the website, ct.gov/deep/wildlife, or call the office.

The habitat in this state can support more bears, wildlife experts say. But the fate and future of the bear population depends on the actions and attitudes of the human population. —Gregg Bartlett

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