Connecticut recorded more than 10,500 bear sightings in 2022. This year there are already more than 2,900. There were more than 3,600 reports of damage last year — nearly half involving trash and more than one-quarter involving bird feeders.
Connecticut is the only state in the region that does not have some form of bear hunting.
At the beginning of the 2023 legislative session, what to do about the all-time high bear sightings and damage in Connecticut seemed poised to overpower other environmental issues. But that has not happened.
Part of the reason may be that the legislation that emerged from the Senate and is now headed to the House in these last two weeks of the session resembles a bear waking up from hibernation. It’s a whole lot slimmer than it started.
No bear hunts, no drastic rules, but not fully benign towards bears either.
Many bear bills were filed, ranging from unrestricted bear hunting to simple educational measures. The legislation that bubbled does three things:
- It clarifies existing rights of residents to kill a bear that is attacking people or pets.
- It allows farmers suffering from crop or livestock destruction by bears to get a permit from DEEP to kill the bear.
- It bans intentional feeding of bears and provides for penalties if someone is found to have done that.
Gone is a provision for people who unintentionally feed bears — say as the result of having a bird feeder. If they had been warned but continue, then it would have been considered intentional.