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Town ordinances would fine people for intentionally feeding bears: DEEP

DEEP officials have worked with state leaders in the past to propose legislation that would prohibit the intentional feeding of the animal.

CANTON, Conn — Officials with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) are encouraging towns to pass ordinances that would prohibit the intentional feeding of bears. The department worked on proposals in the past with the state legislature but they ultimately did not go through.

Bear sightings happen all the time across the state from the cities to the suburbs. Cindy Ronan sees them often at her home in Canton. When interviewed Sunday, she said one was next door thirty minutes before.

"I think we have to respect the fact that these are wild animals and we shouldn’t feed them," she said. "When we’re sitting on our front porch sometimes we can hear a loud snap and then we look over and they just walk right through the yard."

RELATED: Off-duty police officer won't face charges in shooting of bear in Newtown: DEEP

DEEP Wildlife Division Director Jenny Dickson says it's a problem when the animals get comfortable with people. She said there are nearly 1,200 bears in the state with a rapidly growing population.

A Newtown man was found justified in shooting and killing a bear in May. DEEP officials say the bear had been relocated multiple times and had been scared away by the man, but it continued to be an issue.

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A bear was euthanized in Canton last month after it broke into homes and began to associate people with food. Dickson says this can be an issue.

"As it starts to get those food rewards and is constantly associating food with humans, it increases its boldness and gets food conditions so it starts to think people are a good way to get food," she said. 

Many towns have passed ordinances prohibiting people from intentionally feeding bears. DEEP encourages people to put birdfeeders away this time of year and keep trash cans and grills properly cleaned and stored. Dickson says the animals are more active this time of year.

RELATED: Bear breaking into Canton area homes euthanized; surviving cubs relocated

"Connecticut is bear country now. It doesn’t matter what town you live in, you need to start acting accordingly and thinking about what you need to do to be bear aware," she said.

Granby, East Granby, Simsbury, and more recently Salisbury, are some with ordinances that come with monetary fines if people break them.

Dickson says they want to give the educational tools for people to know what their bad habits are but also there be a way for those who intentionally feed the animals and create bad habits to be punished. Ronan agrees these can be beneficial to people and animals.

"It’s great to be in an area where there’s a lot of wildlife but if you’re doing that and they’re getting comfortable with maybe the scent of humans then you’re putting a lot of other people and animals at risk," she said. 

It is a misdemeanor if someone is found to have unlawfully killed a bear in Connecticut. If people are experiencing issues with bears, DEEP says to call them so they can handle it.

Dickson says it's not only about the safety of yourself but also your neighbors and community. While great having these animals in the state, she says there's the responsibility to learn how to live with them.

Tony Black is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. He can be reached at tblack@fox61.com. Follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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