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WOODS ‘N’ WATER: A presence that ‘bears’ close watching

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: A presence that ‘bears’ close watching

With all the attention being paid to COVID-19, many things in our outdoor world are going unnoticed.

Last week, we told you about checking yourself for ticks and recently there was a report of the first mosquito that tested positive for West Nile virus.

But there is another outdoor critter that has been popping up on the news every once in a while: the black bear. And, YES, we have some living right here in the Meriden area and surrounding communities.

Overall, the state’s black bear population is growing, with an estimated 800 now calling Connecticut home. I have had reports of black bear sightings in the Meriden/Middlefield area, West Peak, the Chamberlain Highway and some in Cheshire.

Should you be afraid to go in the woods? No, but if you do have a run-in with a black bear, remember they are not the cartoon characters Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. Black bears are powerful creatures and can cause great bodily harm and, in the worst-case scenario, they could take your life.

Over the years, in my time in the outdoors, I have seen a couple of black bears up close and personal and have the greatest respect for them.

One of the biggest problems with black bears is their numbers are growing and so is our human population. More people means more home development, and this results in less habitat for the black bears. Thus, they are now showing up in places they should not be, one of them being our own back yards.

Here on Dogwood Lane we had a small black bear make an appearance going by our back fence and roaming around a couple of the yards in our area. This was a couple of years ago, but we are now “Bear Aware.”

There was a time when a bear would be trapped and relocated, but areas to relocate them have just about run out.

As I said, black bears are becoming increasingly common in Connecticut, and one never knows where they are going to show up next.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reports bears are attracted to garbage, pet food, compost piles, fruit trees and birdfeeders. If a bear is sighted near your home, remove birdfeeders and bird food from March through November and place garbage cans inside a garage or shed.

You can also add ammonia to trash to make it unpalatable. Clean and store grills in a garage or shed after use.

One of the worst things you can do is intentionally feed bears. They become accustomed to finding food near your home and often become “problem bears.”

Whatever you do, DO NOT approach or try to get closer to a bear to get a photo or video. And it should go without saying do not leave pet food out overnight or add meat or sweets to a compost pile.

But what if you are hiking or camping? If you are hiking, make your presence known by making noise. Hike in groups and, if you see a bear, make enough noise and wave your arms so the bear is aware of you presence.

Also, keep your dogs on a leash when hiking with your dog. A roaming dog could very well be perceived to be a threat to a bear or its cubs.

And I can’t say it enough: DO NOT try to get closer to get a photo or a video.

Do not run or climb a tree. If at all possible, wait in a vehicle or building until the bear leaves the area.

You can also be offensive if a bear approaches you. Make more noise, wave your arms and throw objects at the bear.

Black bears rarely attack humans, but if you are attacked, do not play dead. Fight back with everything available.

If you are camping, don’t cook food near your tent or store food inside your tent. Instead, keep food in a secure vehicle or use a rope to suspend it between two trees.

Bears have been known to occasionally attack farm animals, such as chickens, goats and even calves and sheep. Bee hives are also targeted by black bears and the DEEP suggests hives be reinforced to prevent them from being knocked over. Electric fencing is also suggested for protecting bee hives and livestock.

Not much attention has been paid to the fact that black bears can be dangerous at times. According to a report published in 2017, 25 fatal bear attacks have occurred in North America between 1997-2017.

These statistics show that the youngest victim of a black bear encounter was a 5-month-old child. This happened in 2002 in Fallsburgh, N.Y. A black bear knocked the child from her stroller near the porch of her family’s vacation home. The bear carried the infant in its mouth into the woods and the baby died of neck and head injuries.

In 2014, in New Jersey, a 22-year-old man ignored warnings to turn around by people he and his friends met at the entrance to Apshawa Preserve. They instead continued on and encountered a bear.

The young man and another hiker took photos. As they turned to walk away, they noticed the bear was following them. The hikers ran in different directions.

When they regrouped, they found that the young man was missing. Authorities found his body after a two-hour search.

Most of those 25 bear attacks in North America between 1997-2017 occurred in Canada. Three were in Alaska.

I tell you this in the hope that if a black bear should appear in your area you will leave it alone and stay away from it. I do not want any of you to become a statistic.

Recent attempts to come up with some kind of a bear season to keep the numbers down have been ignored by those in charge.

I guess we will have to wait until a human is attacked in Connecticut before they take action. Anyone out there want to be the first Connecticut victim of a black bear attack? Me neither.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders.  

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