HARTFORD, Conn. — A bill aimed at addressing a growing number of human-bear interactions in Connecticut took a step forward Wednesday, making it out of the judiciary committee.
Bear sightings were once few and far between but have now become a common occurrence in Connecticut.
"I remember my first bear sighting was probably 13, 14 years ago and it was a big deal then and now not a week goes by that I don’t have a bear at my home," said State Rep. Melissa Osborne, a Democrat on the judiciary committee.
In 2022 the state saw a record number of bear entries into homes. Just this week, a bear tried to enter a home in Avon a few days after a bear bit a woman walking her dog in the same town.
"This is becoming an increasingly dangerous issue here in the state of Connecticut," said State Sen. Stephen Harding, a Republican member of the judiciary committee.
The bill would allow people to use deadly force against a bear if it was harming a human, pet or livestock. It would also allow for people to apply for a permit to kill bears that consistently cause damage to their crops.
"It’s a whole approval process, deep would have to approve the application so it is not a regulated hunting season that’s one of the things that was originally in the bill that was taken out," Harding said.
However, animal advocates still have concerns.
"The current language of this bill would allow everyone with a chicken, or a beehive to get a permit to kill bears," said Nicole Rivard, of Friends of Animals. "Friends of Animals feels that that’s just really just a bear hunt in disguise," she said.
Friends of Animals is part of the CT Coalition to Protect Bears.
They said they do support the other part of the bill which looks to stop the intentional and unintentional feeding of bears.
"Most of the bear-human interactions that are reported involve bird feeders and trash cans," Rivard said. "The issue is residents unknowingly baiting bears with these attractants," she said.
Under the bill, people could face a fine for failing to do things like taking bird feeders down or leaving pet food outdoors.
"We need to change our behaviors so that we can live in concert with them and we can avoid these dangerous human-bear interactions," Osborne said.
Friends of Animals said it is looking to roll out a pilot program for bear-resistant trash cans in Connecticut, citing success in other states.
"Durango, Colorado they have a bear-resistant trash can program, bear-related calls have dropped 61%," Rivard said.
More information on what to do if you encounter a bear can be found here.
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