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Wildlife nuisance bill stirs up controversy from farmers and animal advocates

If this bill gets passed in its current form, it would allow anyone with a permit to shoot and kill a bear if there is proof of destruction.

CONNECTICUT, USA — The latest buzz at the State Capitol is a wildlife nuisance bill that would essentially prevent bears from destroying farmers' crops and beehives. 

Lawmakers said this has been an ongoing issue, but animal advocates believed there are other ways to address this.

If this bill gets passed in its current form, this would mean any type of farmer would have the right to shoot and kill the bear if there is proof of destruction.

"We have to control them," said Ted Jones, owner of Jones Apiaries in Farmington. 

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Jones and his wife are beekeepers and they have been operating and owning Jones Apiaries, a honey farm for close to 50 years. 

Their business has been very successful except for one annual challenge - bears that have destroyed their beehives. 

"When you lose a beehive, you also lose your pollination fees, your honey production equipment is totally destroyed," said Jones. 

Jones told FOX61 their beehives have been destroyed overnight seven to eight times already and they are fed up, hoping this bill may finally keep the bears at bay. 

"We've had electric fences everywhere now - very costly. It cost about 500 dollars to put a good fence in and now you have to go buy every three weeks to trim the grass so it doesn't shorten the wires out so this takes time away from tending to the bees," saidJones. 

However, this is not just happening to beekeepers and it isn't just bears that are culprits. This is also happening to all kinds of farmers running into bobcats, coyotes, deer and many more. 

"A farmer would have to demonstrate to the DEEP that there was in fact damage caused by an animal and there was a need for that action," said Senator Craig Miner. 

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Jones hoped this means they would be able to have a permit to shoot and kill a bear if there is proof of destroyed property. 

However, as of right now, the language surrounding that part is still unclear, something lawmakers and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection would have to further discuss with respect to bears. 

Several animal advocacy organizations such as CT Votes for Animals are against this bill. 

"People move to Connecticut because they like wildlife but we have to learn how to live with them," said Jo-Ann Basile, executive director of CT Votes for Animals. 

Basile argued if a farmer sees a bear nearby, there is no proof it is that exact bear that did the damage. 

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"You put food out - garbage cans, compost piles and you're going to attract wildlife to that place and then you yell and scream when they show up. We've got to be smarter about these things," said Basile. 

Revisions will be made to the bill, so it is not yet finalized. 

As of right now, Connecticut and Rhode Island are the only New England states where bear hunting is not legal. 

Carmen Chau is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at cchau@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


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