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Conn. DEEP Euthanizes Bear That Approached Hiker

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Stephanie Rivkin/Facebook
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Connecticut wildlife officials said they have euthanized a bear that approached a hiker in Burlington last week. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 44,000 people signed two online petitions protesting the euthanization.

The bear was found in the same area where it approached hiker Stephanie Rivkin last week at Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area. Rivkin was walking along a roadway when two bears appeared near her. One of the bears approached her and pawed at the ground. Rivkin kept walking and responded in a soothing voice.

"She didn't realize how much danger she was in," said Jason Hawley, a wildlife biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

"He's rushing her when she turns her back," Hawley said. "Huffing and popping his jaws. He actually circles her; she's trying to walk away from him, he actually blocks her."

Hawley said that's predatory behavior. He said this bear has already been reported following a woman in Granby and breaking into a house in Windsor. It was also captured, tranquilized, and relocated from the perimeter fence at Bradley International Airport in June.

"The behavior up to that point was certainly unacceptable, but the behavior that he exhibited at Sessions Woods was actually very disturbing," he said.

One of the petitions against euthanizing the bear says DEEP should consider relocating the bear to somewhere where there are fewer people. Some signers of the petitions suggested wildlife sanctuaries. Hawley says that would be too expensive.

"It would cost the state to thousands of dollars to locate, tranquilize and transport this animal to some sort of sanctuary," he said. "The thousands of dollars could actually be spent conserving the species or protecting habitat."

Hawley says DEEP euthanizes two or three black bears a year out of a population of more than 700.

DEEP said the bear was again accompanied by a second, larger bear when it was found. The other bear was not euthanized, but a different bear that charged DEEP staff was. Both bears will be examined  to see if any abnormalities in their condition could have contributed to their unusual aggressive behavior. The trails at Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area have been closed due to the high amount of bear activity in the area.