HARTFORD, Conn. — Hundreds of bear sightings were reported across Connecticut in 2022, and that coincides with a growing population and a record amount of reports of bears entering homes.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) released a report of bear sightings in 2022, which analyzes the bear and offspring population and town spottings across Connecticut.
It's estimated there are between 1,000 to 1,200 bears living in Connecticut, according to DEEP, with a high growth potential, thanks to the "abundance of suitable habitat and excessive human-related food across their range."
The black bear population is growing; over 90 towns reported sow sightings, a female bear, that were accompanied by their offspring, an increase from less than 50 towns reported seven years prior, according to DEEP.
Thousands, if not hundreds of bear sightings, were reported to DEEP in most Connecticut towns last year, mainly in Litchfield, New Haven, Hartford and northern Fairfield counties.
A cluster of Hartford County towns, including West Hartford, Farmington, Avon and Simsbury, and Torrington in Litchfield County, garnered over 400 reports of bear sightings.
DEEP said there were several towns in the Litchfield and Hartford County areas that reported human and bear conflicts, with multiple towns, including Salisbury and Simsbury reporting numerous home entries.
Last year DEEP saw a record 67 incidents in which bears entered people's homes. The second-highest record of bear home invasions was in 2020, with around 45 reports, followed by just over 30 reports in 2021.
A bear in West Hartford broke into a home twice last summer. There were also numerous reports of a bear in the Canton area breaking into homes and allegedly teaching its cubs how to do the same. The bear was euthanized and the three cubs were relocated to a habitat. DEEP investigated both incidents, which were just some of the many encounters that summer and fall.
Connecticut sees an average of 870 human and bear conflicts annually. New Jersey, New York and Virginia see over 1,000 conflicts annually, granted their populations are significantly larger, between 2,510 and 18,000. Pennsylvania boasts a stable bear population of 20,000, with an average of 3,187 annual conflicts.
Connecticut is the only New England and tri-state area state that prohibits bear hunting, as the black bear and bobcat are considered protected species in Connecticut.
It is technically legal to feed bears in Connecticut, which is the case in Massachusetts and Maine.
There was a call from DEEP last summer to encourage towns to pass ordinances that would make feeding bears unlawful.
An off-duty police officer shot and killed a bear in Newtown last May, and was ultimately not charged with the shooting, with the State's Attorney's Office concluding there was insufficient evidence to bring charges to the officer.
DEEP encourages Connecticut residents to "Be Bear Aware" in order to coexist with black bears. This includes managing garbage and food to avoid attracting bears to yards. Once spring comes, residents are encouraged to take down bird feeders.
Residents are asked to leave bears alone if they see one in the neighborhood, and try to scare it off if they are loitering around the home.
To view DEEP's full bear report for 2022, click here.
Leah Myers is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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