Meeting on bear safety and awareness held in Avon

The bear population in Connecticut is growing, and so are encounters with them.
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 6:52 PM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2023 at 11:17 PM EDT
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AVON, CT (WFSB) - The bear population in Connecticut is growing, and so are encounters with them.

Eyewitness News has brought you stories of a bear biting a woman walking her dog, and bears entering people’s homes.

All of this is prompting a meeting on bear safety Thursday evening.

The number of conflicts between bears and humans continues to rise in Connecticut.

State environmental officials want more people to be bear aware.

“I’d say probably two or three times a week. Sometimes once a week,” said Carrie Firestone of Avon.

“I see bears frequently, I’ve seen bears with mothers, cubs,” added Dean Applefield, also of Avon.

Firestone often sees bears in her backyard and neighborhood.

“Occasionally they’ll dump a garbage can if we leave it out at the wrong time but for the most part, we just mutually coexist peacefully,” Firestone said.

Firestone was at Thursday night’s session on bear safety and awareness. It was hosted by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and lawmakers.

“I also think it’s important to have DEEP and their experts, including a bear biologist, join us this evening because that way people can frankly learn a lot more about what we can and need to be doing in order to make sure that we’re safe and that we are hopefully able to live amongst these creatures,” said Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw (D - 17th District).

Connecticut’s bear population continues to grow.

DEEP biologist Jason Hawley says it has to do with bears being more comfortable in Connecticut neighborhoods.

“They’ve learned only good things come from being around human houses and being around humans, so that’s part of the problem,” Hawley said.

This is the time of year when bears are very active.

“So you’re seeing bears moving around the landscape a little more than you did a month or two ago. And that results in increased sightings by the public,” said Jenny Dickson, Director of DEEP’s Wildlife Division.

The number of human and bear conflicts is rising in the state.

Just last month, a black bear approached and bit a 74-year-old woman in Avon who was walking her dog. She suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

“What you want to do is back away slowly. Get your dog under control or if you’re by yourself, back away slowly. Most of the time, the bear is going to move off,” Dickson said.

One resident made a controversial suggestion, saying a hunt could be the solution.

Others, including Hawley, disagree.

“A hunt isn’t going to solve all problems if people don’t make their food inaccessible. A hunt might help, but it won’t solve our problems,” Hawley explained. “You kill a bear that’s in a forest, that’s not a food-conditioned habituated bear, it seems counterproductive.”

Other questions included if it is ok to grill and eat outside their homes.

Hawley says you can still spend time outside, but that you should be vigilant in cleaning up after yourself and preventing food access.

He says small steps like that can make a big difference in keeping bears away.

“Make sure these bears aren’t comfortable around houses because that’s what’s best for the safety of the bears, and that’s what’s best for the safety of our residents,” Hawley explained.

Officials with DEEP said bear sightings have been recorded in every city and town in Connecticut.

Some tips to reduce run-ins with bears include:

  • Taking down bird feeders
  • Clearing off grills after using them
  • Not putting trash out until collection day

“Let’s learn, let’s talk about this and let’s talk about common sense solutions,” Firestone said.

Bear safety and awareness to be discussed at meeting in Avon
Meeting to be held on bear safety