Lawmakers drop bear hunt proposal, but few are happy with compromise

The bill would have created a lottery to hunt up to 50 bears per season in Litchfield County, where the population is exploding. Instead, the legislature's Environment Committee decided to ban feeding bears.

John Craven

Mar 24, 2023, 11:23 PM

Updated 427 days ago

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Connecticut lawmakers dropped a controversial bear hunting proposal on Friday. Animal rights groups applauded the move, but critics warned it will lead to more dangerous encounters with people.

The bill would have created a lottery to hunt up to 50 bears per season in Litchfield County, where the population is exploding. Instead, the legislature's Environment Committee decided to ban feeding bears.
Neither side of the debate is completely satisfied with the compromise. Republican lawmakers argued that limited hunting would keep bears away from humans.
"We are rejecting the recommendations of our governor," said state Rep. Karen Reddington-Hughes (R-Woodbury). "We are rejecting the testimony of our paid officials from DEEP [Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection]."
Animal rights groups say they are unhappy that farmers could still apply for a permit to kill "nuisance" bears that destroy crops and livestock.
"We think that DEEP and other state agencies – the Department of Agriculture – should ramp up their efforts to provide electric fencing around apiaries and chicken coops," said Scott Smith with Darien-based Friends of Animals.
MORE BEAR ENCOUNTERS
More people – in more places – reported seeing bears in 2022, according to a DEEP "State of the Bears" report. In particular, northwestern Connecticut's bear population is exploding.
"Some oppose hunting, should I say, because they see bears as cute and cuddly," said state Rep. Mark Anderson (R-Granby). "But they are a wild animal."
Some encounters have turned deadly for the animals. In Morris, a bear attacked a 10 year-old boy last October. Five months earlier, an off-duty police officer shot and killed a bear in his Newtown backyard with an AR-15 rifle. DEEP did not charge Lawrence Clarke, leading to protests from animal advocates.
"BEARS ARE VERY SHY"
Although a bear in your backyard can be a scary sight, Smith said they're usually just looking for food.
"Bears are very shy," said Smith. "All they want to do is eat, especially in the fall."
Smith believes the recent spike in sightings was due to a drought that forced bears to search for food in suburban areas.
SUNDAY HUNTING
In another blow for hunters, the Environment Committee defeated a separate bill to expand Sunday hunting to rifles. Currently, only a bow-and-arrow is allowed on Sundays.
Although the proposal would have only allowed shotguns on private land, opponents argued that hikers could get hurt by stray bullets."God rested on the seventh day, and I think that the members of the public here in Connecticut ought to be able to rest and not have to worry about gunshots on the seventh day," said state Rep. Mike DiMicco (D-Farmington).
State Rep. Doug Dubitsky (R-Chaplin) shot back.
"A lot of people's 'seventh day' is Saturday, so they can't hunt on Saturday," he said.
As with bear hunting proposals, Sunday hunting bills have failed several times before.  


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