As black bears in Connecticut emerge from their dens this spring, they’re looking around for food. As WNPR’s Nancy Cohen reports the state Department of Environmental Protection is advising the public to take precautions.
Ten years ago there were close to 300 black bear sightings in Connecticut. But by last year there well over 1900 sightings. A decade ago black bears were found in 66 cities and towns. Now that number has nearly doubled. And on occasion they’ve even been seen in cities, like Hartford, Danbury and New Haven. The majority of black bears in the state, though, are still found in northwestern Connecticut.
Black bears are the smallest bear in North America. But they’re still big. With adult males weighing as many as 450 pounds. Black bears forage for berries and nuts, ants and bees. Sometimes they prey on small mammals and deer.
Paul Rego, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Environmental Protection, says these large predators are usually shy around people hiking in the woods.
“If a person sees a bear at a distance the best thing to do is to make noise so the bear is aware of your presence. In most cases a bear will run and leave the area at that point. If it doesn’t, then the best thing to do is to back away and find an alternative trail.”
To make sure bears stay away from people Rego has this advice: Don’t leave bird food, pet food and household garbage outside of homes. And the D.E.P. recommends putting electric fences around livestock and beehives. It is illegal to shoot a black bear in Connecticut. Although the state can decide not to press charges if a person’s life or livestock is endangered.