Hunt Continues for Bear That Licked Hiker's Leg in Burlington, Connecticut | Connecticut Public Radio
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Hunt Continues for Bear That Licked Hiker's Leg in Burlington, Connecticut

Sep 1, 2015

"It's extremely rare for a bear to be that interested in a human."
Paul Rego

State wildlife officials are still on the lookout for a black bear that was videotaped licking the leg of a hiker in Burlington, Connecticut.

The hiker was not injured, but the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has closed the Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area in Burlington because of the encounter.

From a report in The Hartford Courant:

DEEP officials said the woman reported that the bear, a male that state officials estimated was about a year-and-a-half old, followed her for "quite some time" while she was walking through the woods shortly after noon Friday.

The hiker took a video of the bear, which had a DEEP tag in its ear. Agency records showed that the bear had been tagged as a yearling in its winter den as part of the state's program to keep track of Connecticut's bear population.

Paul Rego, a wildlife biologist with the DEEP, said on WNPR's Colin McEnroe Show that it's extremely rare for a bear to be that interested in a human. "We certainly have bears that are indifferent to the presence of humans, but for one to be that interested, to come that close, is an extremely rare situation," he said.

Rego said the bear has a known history of aggression toward humans. The state plans to euthanize the animal.

"In this case, the behavior that we saw on the video that was taken -- we saw some aspects of true aggression by that bear," Rego said. "There was what we call 'jaw popping.' At one point, the hackles were up, the ears were laid back. The fact that this bear -- anytime Stephanie turned her back -- the bear approached. So the bear was definitely testing and that was very, very concerning behavior."

A petition began circulating online to #sparethebear, with petitioners urging DEEP not to euthanize the bear.

Wildlife officials estimate there are there are about 600 to 700 black bears in Connecticut.