The bear facts
Just last week, a black bear was spotted near Weston’s Devil’s Den Nature Preserve for the first reported sighting there this year. Though confrontations with bears in southern Connecticut are rare due to the high density of development, towns like Wilton and its neighbors can play host to the large animals from time to time.
Over the past 12 months, Wiltonians have reported two bear sightings to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. While Weston has been home to only one reported sighting, Ridgefield has seen seven, and Redding has seen 11.
In fact, a Redding beekeeper even had his artificial nests destroyed by a black bear in June. The large pawprints left behind on the equipment were one reason the resident knew it was a bear and not vandals.
What to do?
Though the state says black bear attacks are exceptionally rare, coming face-to-face with a bear can evoke a visceral, flight-or-fight reaction from those not prepared for such an encounter.
To keep themselves safe, local hikers should keep the possibility of seeing a bear in mind while exploring the woods.
If you do see a black bear while hiking or camping, the DEEP suggests you immediately make your presence known by making loud noises and waving your arms.
In the event you surprise a bear at close range, the state suggests you make your presence known, then walk away slowly while facing the bear.
In rare cases, a bear that feels threatened will make a bluff charge at humans, coming within a few feet of the perceived aggressor. If you experience such an event, immediately begin screaming at the bear while holding your ground.
It is important to remember that these suggestions do not apply to all varieties of bear found in North America. Unlike the American black bear, for instance, the American grizzly is known to be especially aggressive towards humans.
For more information on other bears, visit the North American Bear Center at bear.org.
History in Connecticut
From the early 1800s to the early 1980s, there was no residential bear population in Connecticut due to a lack of natural habitats.
Over the past 30 years, however, the DEEP has monitored an ever-growing population of resident black bears in the state. Because attacks are so rare, the state’s first response to a bear sighting is to encourage area residents to learn how to live alongside the creatures.
“The DEEP’s response will depend on the specifics of each bear situation,” a state fact sheet says. “The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. In most cases, if left alone, the bear will make its way to a more natural habitat.”
Some ways to keep bears away from your home and pets include properly storing trash containers and keeping pet food inside the home. Bears have especially keen senses of smell, and are attracted to human garbage and pet food during drought-filled seasons where their natural sustenance may not be available.
The DEEP has a special website where residents can report bear sightings to the state.
To make a report, visit depdata.ct.gov/wildlife/sighting/bearrpt.htm.