10-year-old recovering after bear attack at grandparents’ Morris home

A 10-year-old boy is recovering from two puncture wounds to his thigh, bite marks to his foot and ankle, and claw marks on his back after he was attacked by a 250-pound black bear in his grandparents’ backyard. It happened around 11 a.m. Sunday in Morris, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The child’s grandmother didn’t want to go on camera but told News 12 some of the terrifying details. She said her grandson had gotten off their trampoline when the bear came out of the woods, latched on to his leg, and tried to drag him away. Her husband, Jim Butler, was out back too but is in a wheelchair. She said when Butler saw his grandson in trouble, he rolled his chair over and threw a metal bar at the bear’s head, causing the animal to release their grandson. But the bear then grabbed the boy a second time and tried to use his claws to roll him over onto his back.
A neighbor told News 12 she and her husband were outside at the time and heard the cries for help. Her husband ran over with a pipe and scared the bear off.
“The bear was still on scene nearby when our environmental conservation police officers arrived and did euthanize the bear,” said Jenny Dickson, director of the wildlife division for DEEP. Its remains are headed to the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in Storrs for further study, including a rabies test.
The boy was rushed to the hospital where he was treated and released. His grandmother said he suffered two puncture wounds to his thigh, bite marks on his foot and ankle, and claw marks on his back. She told News 12 he's doing OK but is obviously traumatized.
DEEP is investigating the incident. Dickson said it's likely this bear had been habituated and was used to associating people with food.
“When those two things combine, it often creates very dangerous situations because bears sort of lose that innate fear of people. They are much more bold. They can sometimes be aggressive. So those are all the kinds of things we’ll be looking at in this particular case,” Dickson explained.
Dickson said all of Connecticut is now bear country as the bear population continues to expand, which is why DEEP has stressed bear awareness the last several years.
“It is critically important for all of us to do what we can to keep bears from learning bad behavior. Once they start to get that easy reward—find food in a bird feeder, find trash before collection day, if they get that positive food reinforcement, they’re going to learn that kind of behavior pays,” Dickson told News 12.
She said it will get to the point when bears aren’t afraid of people anymore and will start looking to homes as sources of food. DEEP has recorded over 60 home entries by bears so far this year.
“It’s not just what we do in our own backyards. But it’s what we do as neighborhoods, as communities because if a bear learns a bad behavior three houses down, it may not cause a problem three houses down. It may cause a problem in someone else’s house or someone else’s yard,” Dickson added.
DEEP has a range of resources available about best practices to both reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a bear and know what to do in the event of an encounter at Living with Black Bears. Here are some simple steps to take:
1. NEVER feed bears, intentionally or accidentally!
2. Remove birdfeeders and bird food from late March through November. Clean up spilled seed from the ground. Store any unused bird seed and suet in a location not accessible to bears, such as a closed garage. Do not store bird seed in screened porches or sheds where bears will be able to rip screens or break through windows to access the seed.
3. Store garbage in secure, airtight containers inside a garage or other enclosed storage area. Adding ammonia to trash cans and bags will reduce odors that attract bears. Periodically clean garbage cans with ammonia to reduce residual odor. Do not store recyclables in a porch or screened sunroom as bears can smell these items and will rip screens to get at them. Garbage for pickup should be put outside the morning of collection and not the night before. Ask your garbage removal company if they provide bear-proof garbage cans.
4. Keep barbecue grills clean. Store grills inside a garage or shed.
5. Do not leave pet food outdoors or feed pets outside.
6. Supervise pets at all times when outside.
7. Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods, such as fruit and fruit peels, in compost piles.
8. If you see a bear in your yard, do not approach it! Go into your house, garage, or other structure. If the bear persistently approaches, go on the offensive—shout, wave your arms, and throw sticks or rocks.