Bear witness

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When Gov. Ned Lamont announced his “Stay Safe, Stay Home” initiative for Connecticut residents back in March, he failed to receive full compliance from one particular demographic. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reported in July that there have been “unprecedented numbers of complaints and requests for assistance” regarding black bears.

Through July, DEEP received more reports of bears entering homes (29) than in any previous year. The state is on track to triple the average number of home entries of 2018 and 2019. Seventeen black bears entered homes in June alone, which equals the number of Ursus burglars for all of 2019.

The majority of bear sightings — there were more than 7,000 this year through early August — have occurred in the western half of the state. Through July, Glastonbury (83) was the only town east of the Connecticut River to report more than 40. Twenty-five towns west of the river had at least that many. — MW

Top 10 towns for bear sightings in 2020 through July*:

Simsbury: 404

Avon: 388

Torrington: 300

Farmington: 299

West Hartford: 225

Bloomfield: 224

Salisbury: 221

Burlington: 214

Canton: 212

New Milford: 172

*The number does not include sightings reported this year through the old system. Prior to the new system, 246 bear sightings were reported to the Wildlife Division.


Exonerated

On Dec. 1, 1985, 65-year-old Everett Carr was murdered at his New Milford home. Two local teenagers, Ralph “Ricky” Birch, 18, and Shawn Henning, 17, were charged with the crime and spent decades in prison. But in July a state Superior Court judge dismissed all charges against the men. That ruling came about a year after the state Supreme Court overturned the felony murder convictions against both men. The case against the men fell apart once the Supreme Court found that in their original trial, Henry Lee, the state’s top criminologist at the time and acclaimed forensic expert, gave incorrect testimony. In key testimony, Lee said that a stain found on a towel in Carr’s home was blood. But that towel was never tested in the state crime lab. — EO

Shawn Henning was wrongly imprisoned for nearly 30 years on the false and misleading testimony of Henry Lee. It has taken 30 years to correct this injustice and we are very pleased with the court’s thoughtful decision. — Craig Raabe, lawyer for Shawn Henning


Caring for the castle

Long-awaited construction efforts to clear the rubble and preserve what’s left of Hearthstone Castle began in Danbury in July. The castle was built in the late 1890s and has been owned by the city of Danbury since 1985. Located on the grounds of Tarrywile Park, it is fenced off and has never been open to the public, but it’s a popular destination for park visitors, who can view its striking stone walls, as well as for vandals who have frequently broken in over the years.

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Work begins on abatement of the Hearthstone Castle historic site on Brushy Hill Road in Danbury in July.

Since the 1990s, various uses and ideas have been proposed for the castle, but those never came to fruition and it fell into dramatic disrepair with its roof and most of its floors collapsing. In 2016 the city approved borrowing $1.6 million to clear the debris from the castle and determine how to stabilize its walls and preserve its footprint as an outdoor attraction of some type.

That may involve shortening the walls to a few feet off the ground, a plan some locals are opposed to. Antonio Iadarola, Danbury’s engineer and public works director, told Hearst Connecticut Media that he will try to preserve the castle walls if there is a cost-effective way to do so. “I’m very passionate about this building,” Iadarola said. “You don’t see architecture, you don’t see specialty buildings like this all the time, especially in a municipal setting. I’m not going to be quick about knocking this down without vetting every opportunity I can and getting as creative as I can.” — EO


Picture perfect

Westport native Lynsey Addario is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and a New York Times bestselling author. She has spent her career photographing soldiers on the front lines of war zones and capturing images among the displaced living in refugee camps. Addario’s moving, striking and powerful images have garnered her another prestigious honor — she was recently announced as an inductee in the 2020 class of the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.

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Lynsey Addario (photo by Nicole Sobecki)

In 2014, American Photo magazine recognized Addario as one of five photographers who “epitomized the developments and changes of the past 25 years” and “transformed our understanding of photography forever.” The hybrid live/virtual induction ceremony will take place in St. Louis on Oct. 30. — MW


Peering into our environmental future

A recent study published in Nature co-authored by University of Connecticut researchers suggests climate change will start to do significant damage to ecosystems sooner than previously thought, and may have already begun. As “climate change continues, the risks to biodiversity will increase over time, with future projections indicating that a potentially catastrophic loss of global biodiversity is on the horizon,” the study notes.

To better pinpoint when this will occur, researchers at UConn along with those at University College London Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, looked at annual projections from 1850 to 2100 of temperature and precipitation across the ranges of “more than 30,000 marine and terrestrial species to estimate the timing of their exposure to potentially dangerous climate conditions.”

Under a high-emissions scenario, “such abrupt exposure events begin before 2030 in tropical oceans and spread to tropical forests and higher latitudes by 2050.” Study authors say the findings support the need for rapidly reducing worldwide emissions. — EO

Another report co-authored by a UConn professor looks ahead to climate impacts expected here in Connecticut. Among the major projections of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation, whose goal is to inform state communities and decision makers:

Average temperatures will continue to rise, especially in the winter.

26 degrees: Average winter temperature in 1895

30 degrees: Current average winter temperature

40-plus degrees: Average winter temperature around 2100

Heat waves will double.

4 heat waves per year currently

8 heat waves per year by 2050

“Tropical nights,” when temperatures stay above 68 degrees, will increase.

10 per year in the 1950s

45 per year by 2050

There will be fewer ice days (when temperatures don’t rise above 32 degrees) ...

25 days in the 1950s

10 days by 2050

5 or fewer days by 2100

… and frost days (when temperatures drop to 32 degrees or less).

140 days in the 1950s

80 days by 2050

50 days in 2100

Growing seasons will be longer.

240 days in the 1950s

275 days by 2050

300-plus days by 2100

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.