by Charles A. Monagan
Jan 11, 2012
10:30 AM
On Connecticut

Grin and "Bear" It


I saw this story this morning about how the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is beginning the process of potentially allowing bear hunting in the state of Connecticut.

I was reminded of the time I spent early last spring with Environmental Conservation police officer Paul Hilli while writing a "Being There" column for our May 2011 issue. During my visit, we met up with DEEP wildlife biologist Paul Rego and wildlife technicians Jason Hawley and Alex Johnston as they were out in the People's State Forest tracking and tagging brown bears, which was a really unique experience.

What struck me from that day was how all four of the men, each of whom is a dedicated environmental professional and clearly loves animals, agreed that the best way to control the growing bear population in Connecticut is through responsible hunting, especially since there are very few natural predators of bears, other than humans. Taking Connecticut bears and dumping them in other more remote places is not a practical option, either. The DEP biologists mentioned that all the states around Connecticut with high bear populations allow hunting, but said it might be tough to sell to the general public because bears are thought of as "cuddly and cute." (And to be told, the cubs they were tagging were adorable.) Hilli suggested that 90 percent of the bears are "good," and it's only a few that cause problems—and those could be greatly reduced by the proper scheduling of hunting locations, days and times.

The Connecticut bear population, conservatively estimated to be between 500 and 1,000, and growing at a rate of better than 15 percent annually, will become a big problem sooner rather later if it's not dealt with properly. Matching how densely populated Connecticut is versus the number of bears, it's only a matter of time before there's an unfortunate incident, which no one wants. Last year, a few piglets and dogs were attacked by bears, and I remember there was some outcry.

Of course, the DEEP's proposed plan to allow a lottery for bear-hunting permits is also going to stir up controversy, which is fine. The more ideas and suggestions on how to deal with this problem, the better it is for all involved, including the bears.

Personally, I applaud the DEEP for being proactive about the situation rather than waiting for a bear to attack someone's children and then having to explain why they didn't do anything about it sooner. It may not be a popular or politically correct solution, but at least the issue is being addressed.

Grin and "Bear" It

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