by Charles A. Monagan
Jun 1, 2011
01:13 PM
On Connecticut

Becoming Unbearable

Becoming Unbearable

I saw this story this morning about two piglets that were killed by a bear in Winsted, which comes on the heels of recent publicized incidents over the last month involving black bears in Avon, Orange and Simsbury. Over the last year, there's been nearly 2,000 reported bear sightings in the state, a number that continues to grow.

Of course, I think of my own bear-sighting experience a few months ago, when I accompanied Environmental Police Officer Paul Hilli for a day as part of a "Being There" article that appeared in our May issue. During the day, we went out into the People's State Forest with DEP wildlife biologist Paul Rego, wildlife technician Jason Hawley and Alex Johnston to observe while they were doing some of their annual tracking and tagging of black bears. It was a fascinating process that took hours, and because of the length of the overall article, I had to condense what was really a very cool experience into a few sentences.

That's Hilli in the picture above with a tranquilized three-year-old sow known as No. 86—while they were all weighing and measuring the bear and its two four-month-old cubs, Hilli said, "We don't name the bears because even though one may look cute now, I might have to kill it next year." 

That's the one thing that really struck me from my field trip—and again, because of space in the magazine, I only gave it a brief mention. All four of these 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 our bears and dumping them in other more remote places is not a practical option.

The DEP biologists mentioned that all the states around Connecticut allow the hunting of bears, 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 300 and 500, 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.

In short: Yesterday, it was piglets, but tomorrow it could be someone's children.

Becoming Unbearable

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