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The bear essentials of our own backyard

In New Jersey, a black bear recently dragged an alpaca away from its pen and was shot and killed by a policeman as it hovered over the carcass of the deceased animal.

We also had a bear shot and killed in Connecticut after it appeared to be threatening.

As more and more black bear sightings surface in our area, it is good to keep in mind that black bears are wild creatures and not some TV cartoon characters like Boo-Boo and Yogi Bear. If they so choose, they can hurt you and even take a life.

One has to wonder what is going to take place with the ever-increasing bear population in Connecticut. When they first started to appear in our state, the solution was simple, especially since these appearances were mostly in the northern part of the state and were considered a novelty. At the time they captured the critter alive and released it into a wooded area with the hope that it would stay out of trouble.

This worked, for a while.

Now it seems that bears can be found in many more towns in Connecticut. One only has to look as close as Meriden to see that this is true. The State DEEP averages about 3,000 reported bear sightings a year and I wonder how many sightings simply go unreported.

Since there is no current hunting season for black bears in Connecticut, it is not surprising that bear sightings are on the increase and in many towns where such an occurrence was unheard of in year past.

In his book, “Guide to Game Animals,” Leonard Lee Rue III tells us that the black bear is one of the most intelligent of our wild animals and has been able to survive, and even thrive, in the proximity of man.

Over the years, tales of bear/human run-in reports have been unbelievably numerous in states having bear populations, and it now looks like Connecticut is joining those ranks.

For all intents and purposes, most black bears are walking appetites or, better yet, an opportunist that never passes up anything edible. Although they do eat meat in just about any form, plus eggs and the young of ground nesting birds, black bears also dig up chipmunks, ground squirrels, mice and any other ground dwelling critters they come across in their travels.

It is also a fact that black bears will take the young of whitetailed deer, and the young of elk and moose if the opportunity presents itself.

Bears will also feed on carrion no matter how bad it might be. In some farm areas, black bear have become notorious because of their appetite for livestock, pigs in particular. Some black bears have even become sheep killers when hunger forces them to become more aggressive.

Yet this is the same animal that will gorge itself on grasses, sedges, buds and the inner bark of some pine trees. When the berries ripen the black bears outdo themselves as they overfeed, even eating parts of the bushes as they stuff the berries into their mouths.

In the fall, when the apples ripen, the bears gorge on them. I have hunted in Maine in spots where black bears would eat as many apples as they could and then upchuck (vomit) small mounds of the chewed up apples. They will even climb an apple tree for the fruit, many times breaking the branches as they try and rip the fruit from them.

It seems that their never ending appetite is what drives them and even gets them into trouble by coming into human contact by invading their yards looking for food. To the black bear, a human habitat can provide garbage, bird feeders and other tasty morsels. Huge garbage dumpsters are another favorite of the black bear and in some places this practice has earned them the moniker “Dumpster Bear.”

It is probably this never-ending search for something to eat that has resulted in the recent sightings of a black bear on the east side of Meriden.

Alongside this column you see a photo of a black bear in a back yard of a home on David Drive. The photo was taken by Cynthia Nowakowski, and she said the bear hung around a couple of days.

In the photo you can see a birdfeeder that has been bent over, presumably by the bear to get at the birdseed. When we had our place in New York, a black bear wrecked a hummingbird feeder to get at the sweet contents of the feeder.

So, now comes the question: What do we do when the bear population gets too high?

Hunt them?

I can already see the anti-hunting groups and animal rightists making up signs to protest such an action as a black bear hunt. Their solution is to just leave them be and if that is the tack they want to take so be it.

But we should also charge them with the liability of paying for any damages in Connecticut caused by black bears regardless of what the damages are. Hopefully this will not include human and domestic animal lives.

Of course, protesters taking fiscal responsibility for bear damages is never going to happen, so we are back to square one.

New Jersey has been faced with a similar situation over the years, although theirs was an even greater problem because of the number of bears there.

Bears in New Jersey? You better believe it.

In a recent release that I received via e-mail, it is reported that black bear complaints in New Jersey are significantly lower so far this year after a six-day hunt in December in which 592 of the animals were killed, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The department has received 90 reports of nuisance bears between March 21 and April 20 compared to 305 through the same period in 2010. However, a report of “Category 1” bears (those that behave aggressively towards people, pets and property) showed only a slight decline from 21 to 18 incidents.

The “fly in the ointment” appears to be the fact that hunts are not allowed near homes, locations that prompt the majority of aggressive bear incidents. Some feel that the hunt deals more with docile bears, but if that is the case, how are you supposed to know which bears will remain docile and which ones will become aggressive?

In New Jersey, the DEP is again going to hold a six-day bear hunt starting December 5. It will be the first back-to-back bear hunt in four decades. New Jersey held bear hunts in 2003, 2005 and 2010 after ending the season in the early 1970s. It was also noted that while a record 592 bears were harvested last December, an estimated 1,000 cubs with only an 80 percent survival rate were born during the winter.

Authorities say that they anticipate a gradual reduction to the overall bear population if they hold the hunt every year. Last year’s New Jersey hunt sparked protests with opponents criticizing Governor Chris Christie for allowing the hunt and they of course staged demonstrations outside one of the weigh in stations.

Over the years, animal rights protesters, when it comes to going against hunting for animal population control, especially here in Connecticut, always get TV coverage. I, for one, would love to see an honest TV documentary on the pain and suffering that such animal over-populations cause to both the human population as well as the animals themselves. Do they really think a wild critter clipped in a run in with a motor vehicle doesn’t suffer any pain?

Every year human beings lose their lives because of a collision with various species of wildlife in the United States. Here in Connecticut, collisions with deer cost insurance companies as well as vehicle owners millions of dollars. How long will it be before we can add the black bear to the list of vehicle/animal incidents?

As the black bear population in Connecticut increases even more, decisions will have to be made on how to handle the problem. It will be up to those who handle our wildlife resources like the DEEP Wildlife Division — and here in Connecticut we have one of the best — to come up with a viable solution like hunting.

Of course, they will not only have the bears to handle, but a rabid animal rights faction that does not have a clue when it comes to the proper handling of our wildlife resources. They have already proven this so many times over right here in Connecticut as well as other New England states.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.



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