The bear truth

Barely a peep in the last few days on the possibility of a bear hunt in Connecticut, after a flurry of assertions one was in the works followed by a bunch of non-denial denials, and some generally vague answers that left all kinds of doors wide open. (In case you forgot where this all started — it was a few weeks back when an 82-year-old Windsor man killed a bear that had damaged his bird feeder.)

So we put it to Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty, whose deputies have done most of the talking so far.

“We have no plans to have a bear hunt now,” he said. “Our population today does not justify that, but there has got to be a serious conversation had and a public dialogue had over what’s the best wildlife management strategy for the years ahead.

“The goal for the next couple of years is to clarify the options.”

Tagging and tracking has been stepped up. Bears are euthanized if they are found to be dangerous or aggressive. And Esty pointed out that Connecticut is the only state on the East Coast with a sizeable bear population that doesn’t have a bear hunt.

All that said Esty called the restoration of Connecticut’s bear population, which had all but disappeared by the mid-1800s, “a bear success in that we have invested in environmental efforts, habitat restoration efforts, reforestation efforts that have brought the bears back in a big way.”

The official guess is anywhere from 500 to 1,000, though sightings in the last year were just over 2,750.

Biologists, he said estimate the population will double every five years. “But there are challenges when bears and humans interact,” he said. “So we have got to figure out strategies for managing the bear population and managing those human-bear interactions and we’re looking at all the options.

And there’s that word options again. Do we think it’s the last word?