There was time that when a black bear came into a neighborhood, the DEEP would capture it and relocate it to a more wooded or wilderness area, and that would most often take care of the matter.
But when males and females of the species started to mate we began to see even more bears, and now they seem to be about everywhere here in Connecticut, even right here in Meriden.
They have also just about run out of wilderness areas to let the bears go.
Locally, I have received reports of black bear sightings in the Black Pond area, the mountain area of Hubbard Park, the north end of Meriden and the mountain range on Preston Avenue, to name a few.
According to the DEEP, there have been black bear sightings reported in approximately 140 of the state’s 169 towns. In 2016, over 6,000 sightings were reported, which means that the Connecticut bear population is on the increase, especially in the northwestern part of the state.
And if you take into consideration that many times the sightings go unreported, this could mean there are even more bears than the ones accounted for. More than once I have talked to folks who have seen black bears and have not reported the sightings (which they should).
The growing black bear population in Connecticut also presents another problem. In real life, they are not cartoon characters. They should be treated like the wild creatures they are. They can and have killed humans!
If they come into your area they should not be fed or be encouraged to stay by any type of feeding. This will only make them less afraid of humans and this can be dangerous.
One of the main attractors for black bears are bird feeders of just about all types. When we had our place in New York, we had one come in and destroy a hummingbird feeder. They also like bee hives and corn fields.
In the wild they also use the nut mast to fatten up for winter hibernation. When this is low they tend to gravitate to the human populated areas to forage bird feeders, garbage cans, dumpsters and pet foods left out in the open.
Connecticut is not the only state with this problem. New York is trying to figure out if its bear seasons are working the way they should to keep bear numbers in check.
There are places in New York that are rather thick with bears, yet it seems that many of the bears are taken only in the deer season when they come into the range of deer hunters. Yet some deer hunters pass up the opportunity to take a bear because they do not want to miss their chance at a deer.
Here in Connecticut, the DEEP says if you see a black bear in your yard, enjoy the sighting from a distance and make sure you are doing nothing to attract a bear. Remove any food sources that might attract them. If there are bears in your area, refrain from putting out bird feeders. The DEEP suggests if you want birds in your yard that you “establish native plants in your yard and add water features to attract birds instead of feeders.”
I do know that some people see bears while hiking. The DEEP says that it is safe to enjoy the outdoors regardless of what region of the state you live in or are visiting. However, they do advise dog owners who take their dogs with them to keep them on a leash and to not let them interact with bears or other wildlife. Hike in groups and make your presence known by talking or singing.
But what if you see a bear? Remain calm and observe the bear from a distance. DO NOT APPROACH IT for any reason!
If the bear is unaware of your presence, back away or make noise which will often cause the bear to flee. If the bear is aware of you and does not flee, talk to the bear in a calm voice and back away slowly.
If the bear approaches, never climb a tree or run. Make noise, wave your arms and throw objects at the bear.
I know that some of this may seem comical to some readers (ignorance is bliss), but there have been humans killed by black bears, most recently a couple of years ago in New Jersey. There was also a woman killed in her home in New Mexico when a bear broke into the house and some other fatal run-ins around the U.S. that I mentioned in an earlier column.
If you are camping, keep the camp clean and free of food smells. This is not an easy chore and should be taken seriously!
The DEEP also tells us that a common misconception is that bears with ear tags are problem bears. This is not true. They are generally tagged as part of a research of the state bear population.
Every bear receives two ear tags (one in each ear). Ear tag color indicates the year the bear was tagged. For example, a bear with a yellow tag was handled in 2016 and one with pink tags was handled in 2013. The tags are also number coded, telling the biologists when the bear was staged.
Ear tags help biologists track bear movements and dispersal. Bears tagged in Connecticut have traveled as far as Vermont. Bears tagged in New York, Massachusetts and even Pennsylvania have shown up in Connecticut. Ear tags can also help identify individual bears that have repeated problem behavior.
As I said before, we have run out of places to relocate problem bears in our state, especially when you consider the fact that many bears, particularly males, have a home range of 12-60 square miles. As for relocating them to other states, this cannot be done because other states, including larger states like Montana and Colorado, will not accept any bears, especially problem bears.
As for relocation to zoos and sanctuaries this may seem like a kind thing to do, but the DEEP says that it is easier said than done. Black bears are not a high priority species for zoos and, even if they were, the numbers would be limited.
In a more northern state like Maine, bear hunting can be big business. In a smaller state like Connecticut, this is not feasible. Even neighboring New York and its extended bear seasons in various zones and seasons for archery, regular firearms and muzzleloaders from September to December, the harvest figures show that most black bears are taken by chance encounter with deer hunters.
So if black bears are becoming a problem in Connecticut and we can’t ship them out or relocate them, why not allow deer hunters in Connecticut to take them to control their numbers?
I suggest that a hunter MUST have a bear tag on his or her license to harvest one if they are hunting. The DEEP could charge a fee for the bear tag and put the money to good use on other projects. This seems to be the only logical way to keep the black bear numbers in check.
We already have black bear incidents with farm animals being killed here in Connecticut, as well as a couple of break-ins into homes. Do we want to wait for a human fatality before any type of action is taken?
And for those who would oppose hunters taking a black bear if they see one, would you want one of your family to be the first back bear casualty in Connecticut? You really don’t have to think about that one.
See ya’, God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.