Since I added the Suggestion Box to this blog site, I’ve received a lot of ideas for posts from a number of people. One particular person, however, is insistent on sending me articles and suggestions that he finds amusing or interesting. Most of the time, I simply read whatever is in those emails, chuckle to myself and move on. Then there are times when he refuses to be ignored, stomps across the house and asks if I’ve gotten any good emails lately. This week, he overloaded my email inbox with articles and stories he’d found from various news sources in Connecticut. The subject lines read “bear”, “bears”, “more bears”. They were all about the black bear problem that has been causing some concern for the Nutmeg State, and they really were worth reading – this time. So, for that, and in an effort to appease him, I thought I’d share what has been happening among the residents and the bears in my little home State in New England.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is busily tracking down the increased calls from people who have seen, encountered and shot at black bears in the past couple of years. The numbers of sightings has steadily increased as the bear population has grown. While the DEEP reports that there about 300 to 500 bears in Connecticut, the calls about them is now over 1,200 and climbing. I don’t know the first thing about the habits of bears, particularly their migration, but that sounds like a lot of sightings for the number of bears statewide. If you can trust the DEEP’s statistics, then the same bears seem to be touring the State, possibly traveling by bus or camper, and making stops at towns along the way.
It isn’t anything new to spot an occasional bear in New England, but where there showing up does give one pause. One of the latest reports was about a bear sleeping in a tree near a hotel in New Britain. It found one of the few trees large enough to hold him and that hadn’t been planted along Columbus Boulevard by folks from the Public Works Department. There is nothing “woodsy” about this part of town. How he got there and why no one noticed him before he found a place to nap is nothing short of a miracle. He hadn’t been tagged yet, making him a new addition to DEEP’s long list of previous visitors from the forest.
There’s an even bigger problem, because now people are finding them on the streets of other towns and cities, in their backyards, their garages and even on someone’ deck. The homeowner who found the 450 pound bear on his back porch shot and killed the bear. He was arrested by DEEP for his actions. Another man was walking his dogs, Schnauzers, on the grounds of the Metropolitan District Commission, which provides potable water to Connecticut residents. Their property is open to the public for hiking, jogging and the like. In the recent past, there were some robberies and the man who was strolling with his dogs was carrying a licensed gun on him. He, too, came across a black bear. One of the dogs did what dogs do – it started to bark and tried to protect its human. The bear began to maul the dog and the owner shot at the bear. He didn’t hit it, but it was enough to send the bear on his way. This man, until the public outrage grew to be too much for the government officials, was also to be arrested – this time for firing a gun on MDC property.
The DEEP says that it is doing all that it can to find the errant bears and return them to the wild,but that doesn’t seem to be working very well. Obviously, the bears have set their GPS and just keep coming back to their favorite cities and towns. The Commissioner for DEEP has issued some guidelines on what to do if and when you come across a bear, say, in your kids’ backyard play area. You’re supposed to go into your house and make a lot of noise – they suggest banging pots and pans. It’s also suggested that, if you have a dog around – one that should be kept on a leash by the way, even on your own property so as not to upset the bears – get the dog to bark at the bear through an open window. I don’t think that the barking thing worked very well on that trail over at MDC. A dog barking, even through a window, could have an even worse result than just hiding and hoping he goes away on his own. I didn’t see any tips on what to do with your toddler if a bear should show up near the swing set – maybe they didn’t have any or we should assume that the leash thing should be applied here, as well. The State did make the statement that it was alright to shoot a bear if it persisted in killing livestock. I guess that means that it would have to become a repeat offender, and how that is established is anyone’s guess.
I’m sure that the Commissioner has only the best of intentions and really wants to do what is right, both for residents and the bears. His suggestions are good ones if you happen to live near a forest. When there are bears that have taken to the streets of towns like New Britain, Torrington or West Hartford, it’s going to take more than just keeping your garage door closed and putting your garbage can out of sight. There are stores and restaurants all over these communities, all of which have their own dumpsters just chock full of bear treats and snacks. The DEEP admits that the black bear population is growing at a rate of 10% to 20% per year, which means that foraging, in the oddest of locales, will become even more common place. The State even considered allowing a black bear hunting season, which was met with more than a little outrage by the public, and quickly abandoned. I don’t have any solutions or suggestions, so I’m asking you to give your thoughts about how to handle this in a way which will allow the human and wildlife population to peacefully coexist. I like bears. I like most animals. I even like some people. I don’t want any of them to get hurt. I’ve read that there are 3,500 bears in New Jersey right now. Maybe some folks there could offer their suggestions.
I think I’ve figured out a way to put an end to that cyber-stalker I mentioned earlier, you know, the one that sends all of those emails and follows up with personal visits. I don’t remember anything in our vows where I promised not to block his account. I’ll try that first, before I move on to banging my pots and getting the dogs to bark.