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As bears wake from hibernation, Connecticut lawmakers unsure how to handle uptick in encounters

Bears can eat like pigs, hibernate for months and still be healthy. This seems so unfair.
Tim Shobe
More than 70 break-ins and two attacks by bears were reported last year in Connecticut.

Connecticut legislators are trying to get a handle on an increase in bear encounters in the state with multiple bills.

Black bears have been spotted in every Connecticut municipality at some point, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Department. Connecticut has 169 municipalities, and 158 of them reported bear sightings in 2022.

More than 70 break-ins and two attacks by bears were reported last year.

While some bills seek to authorize a bear hunt, others focus on regulating outdoor trash and bird feeders, which attract them.

Connecticut is the only northeastern state with a growing bear population that does not allow hunting.

The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) supports allowing a hunting lottery in Litchfield County, but animal rights groups say the state should do more to educate residents on how to avoid bear interactions instead of authorizing them to hunt.

Representative David Michel (D-Stamford), who co-chairs the state's Animal Advocacy Caucus, said hunting will not slow the encounters.

“According to experts, hunting in the wild will not fix the issue of habituated bears,” Rep. Michel said. “Hunting certainly is not safe in residential areas, where most interactions take place. DEEP has unfortunately been pushing for hunting for many years, which is concerning.”

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.