WOODS ‘N’ WATER: The bare facts as bear sightings rise

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: The bare facts as bear sightings rise


Be honest now. Did you ever think you would see a black bear in Connecticut, never mind here in Meriden and surrounding towns?

As a kid growing up in South Meriden, neither did I.

But guess what? There are a number of black bear here in Connecticut and there have been numerous sightings in Meriden. Only a couple of years ago one made an appearance in South Meriden.

We even had one skirt our backyard here on Dogwood Lane a couple of years ago. It was a young one and it wandered around a couple of homes in the neighborhood, but did not do any damage. 

This does not mean they are tame or should be treated like they are pets or some cartoon critter like Yogi Bear or Boo Boo. They are definitely creatures of the wild, even though here in Connecticut our human population has forced some of them to live in close proximity to us.

Many of the black bears that have been sighted here in Connecticut and in our area may be sporting colored ear tags. This means that, for one reason or another, they were captured and probably relocated only to reappear elsewhere.

There was a time, early on, if a black bear presented a problem it was captured by the DEEP and released in another area. This was when they started to make their presence known here in Connecticut. But as the black bear population increased, the areas in which they could be released decreased, and their numbers are growing each year.

Black bears are intelligent creatures and have a liking for leftover food that we humans might leave in our garbage cans or dumpsters in condo complexes. Over the years I have lost count of tales of black bears invading dumpsters in their search for something to eat.

Years ago, when they were allowed in our more northern states, open garbage dumps were a major attraction for black bears to come and scrounge for food. This also made the dumps an attraction for humans to come and watch the black bears dig through the garbage for food.

While the surprise of having a bear peering out or even jumping out of a dumpster when someone lifts the lid may seem laughable, this could also present a dangerous situation. Remember, the black bear is a wild critter and is equipped with teeth and claws, plus brute strength that could do a lot of harm to a human.

Generally, bears would prefer to put as much distance as possible between themselves and a human, but there is always a chance that things could go very wrong. Over the years I have told readers about some of the tragic bear/human meetings that have resulted in the deaths of the humans.

Many times it was caused because the humans did not take the proper precautions when in bear territory, and from the looks of things that bear territory is increasing every year.

Here are two black bear incidents in which humans did the wrong thing. A lady in Connecticut got away with getting a video of a black bear up close and personal and lived to talk about it. In fact, TV made a big thing out of it. A young male hiker tried the same thing in New Jersey and ended up dead. The black bear killed him.

Now with warmer weather bringing out more campers and hikers, the chances of some of them having a black bear sighting are on the increase. There are precautions that should be taken depending on where the bear sighting or interaction takes place.

Since we do not live in a wilderness area, that might mean a black bear passes through your yard when you least expect to see them, and believe me this is a fact.

If you do have a black bear in your home area, remove or secure all potential food for bears, such as bird feeders (a huge attractant) and unsecured garbage and compost piles.

Protect backyard chicken coops and bee hives with electric fencing and clean greasy barbecues after each use.

Feed your pets indoors.

Also, the presence of a barking dog triggers a bear to become aggressive. Keep your dog leashed and NEVER let your dog chase or interact with black bears.

If you are at a campsite, store your food and cooking gear in bear-proof containers and make sure they are separate from your sleeping area.

Coolers are NOT bear resistant! Put food scraps and fat drippings in closed containers, NOT the campfire!

For the hiker — and this year their numbers appear to be up — always be aware of your surroundings. Normal trail noise will usually alert bears to your presence and prompt them to withdraw without being noticed.

If you see a bear, talk to it in a calm voice and slowly back away. Do not approach the bear or intrude between a female bear and her cubs.

Bears will sometimes “bluff charge” when cornered or threatened. Don’t run from a charging bear. Speak calmly and slowly back away.

I know this is more easily said than done. On a wilderness trip to Maine, Edna and I ran into a mother bear with a cub and were lucky enough to go the other way and made it safely out of the woods.

Was I calm? Not really!

I notice many hikers bringing their dogs with them and, once in the woods, many tend to let their dogs off leash. If you are in bear territory, this is a bad idea. If the dog should go after a bear this could incite the bear to go after the dog and the owner.

This might seem offensive to some dog owners, but.it could keep them and their pets from harm by a black bear, and their numbers are definitely increasing.

What’s to be done with the increasing black bear numbers? Our legislators up in Hartford have to give the DEEP the authority to stage some type of regulated bear hunt. Why not allow a hunter who knows they are in bear country to purchase a special permit that would allow them to harvest a bear if they came close enough to them.

Or do we wait until we finally have a human death caused by an overpopulation of black bears? I guess we will have to wait and see. I wonder if any of the legislators would like to have one of their loved ones be the first Connecticut bear fatality.

See ya, and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters, and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours. 

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