Wilton resident leads protest against bear poachers

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXeB_F7Bz08[/embedyt]True to her word, Wilton resident Marguerite Tucker O’Connor led a group of 20 sign-bearing protesters outside State Superior Court in Norwalk the morning of Friday, Oct. 20, seeking the maximum penalty for a pair of bear poachers who were caught in the act in Wilton on Sept. 16.

The protest was originally scheduled for Sept. 28, but the court date for those arrested was postponed until Oct. 20.

After about 15 minutes of walking up and down Belden Avenue Oct. 20 in front of the courthouse toting the professionally printed signs, some of which proclaimed in bold letters “Bear Hunting Is Illegal,” O’Connor was informed by a Bulletin reporter that a courthouse official had just announced lawyers for the two men that morning had secured another postponement, this time to Oct. 25. Then O'Connor learned from another court official that the date was moved to Nov. 30.

“We’ll be back,” O’Connor said, emphatically.

Annie Hornish, Connecticut director of the Humane Society of the United States, and some of her members were also on the scene to rally against the bear poaching incident.

The protesters carried their signs without shouting, after being directed to keep on the move by courthouse security officers, but they voiced their concerns when asked by reporters.

About half a dozen reporters and camera operators showed up for the demonstration.

“To cut off a bear’s head and put it in a backpack to take home as a trophy, you’ve got to be sick in the head,” said a disgusted Taylor Matzke of Redding.

Matzke when she heard news reports of the bear killings in September, she was sad and mad at the same time.

“It’s just so bad, I’m very angry,” Matzke said, holding up a sign that said bear hunting is illegal.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection received an anonymous report that an archery hunter had illegally shot and killed two black bears on private property on Indian Rock Place.

Officers from DEEP’s Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police responded and said Antonio Lio, 28, of Wilton was seen exiting the woods allegedly carrying a bear skin, head and paws stored in his backpack. He was accompanied by Daniel Moran, 33, of Norwalk.

Lio allegedly told EnCon Police that he shot a bear with a bow and arrow as it was walking under his tree stand. Lio further admitted that he shot and killed a second bear, also with a bow and arrow, that approached him while he was checking on the first deceased bear, police said.

Lio told ENCon Police he texted Moran to assist in retrieving the bears. Upon arrival, Moran and Lio allegedly skinned the first bear, cutting off its paws and head, for a trophy mount.

Lio did not have a valid 2017 hunting license or archery permit. After the initial investigation both men were arrested. Lio was charged with two counts of Illegal taking of black bear and one count of fourth-degree negligent hunting. He was released on a $5,000 non-surety bond for the misdemeanors.

Natalie Jarnstedt of Greenwich, an animal rights activist who heard the news, attended the rally Oct. 20 and held her hand-printed sign high.

It showed the horror of a bear with its body parts cut off.

“It’s illegal to kill bears in Connecticut,” Jarnstedt said. “Poachers are a different breed of hunter. It’s such a disrespectful attitude toward animals.”

Some of the signs read “Bear Lives Matter.”

The message is to respect wildlife, said Leslie McLean of Redding, who was one of the protesters.

“I’m passionate about wildlife,” McLean said. “I work with animals.”

The bear killing case was one of the biggest crime cases in Wilton this year. News of the poaching brought thousands of viewers to click on the story published on the Bulletin’s web site.