As Black Bear Encounters Increase, Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Hunting Bill | Connecticut Public Radio

As Black Bear Encounters Increase, Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Hunting Bill

May 12, 2017

A controversial bear hunting bill opposed by environmentalists is being considered by Connecticut legislators. The measure would seek to curb the state's growing black bear population.

In existing laws, bear hunting isn't legal. Black bears are becoming increasingly common in the state with more than 6,000 sighting reports in the last year, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The agency said they’ve also seen a rise in nuisance reports and property damage.

Speaking on WNPR's Where We Live, Rick Jacobson, wildlife director for DEEP, said one of the proposed solutions would allow bear hunting.

"It would be a valuable tool to have available to us," Jacobson said. "If and when we would actually take advantage of that tool it would depend upon a whole host of factors, including public engagement."

Bear hunting is legal in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont with a state permit.

Experts, like wildlife biologist Dr. Ben Kilham, say the primary contributing factor to bear problems is food attractants like garbage, birdfeeders, and pet foods. Residents should never intentionally feed them, and Kilham said that should be a punishable offense.

"On every occasion that a state officer has to reply to a bear complaint, the human should get fined," Kilham said. "Because it's the human that’s causing the attraction -- should be a nominal fine like $20, a parking ticket. Nobody likes to get a parking ticket."

Several groups, including environmentalists and the Connecticut chapter of The Humane Society of the United States have voiced opposition to the hunting bill calling it a trophy hunting proposal.

The bill was voted out of the Environment Committee and now heads to the Senate floor.