Bear killings spark outrage

The bow-and-arrow killing of two black bears in the Wilton woods of Indian Rock Place on Sept. 16 has sparked outrage in the community and on the Internet’s social media pages.

Marguerite Tucker O’Connor, a Wilton resident, responded to the news of the bear killings by announcing plans for a protest at Norwalk Superior Court on Sept. 28, when the alleged bear poachers will appear before a judge.

“Like many of you I am heart broken over the murder of the two black bears this weekend,” O’Connor said in her post, on the Facebook page Wilton 412, which is a members-only page intended for residents of Wilton.

“I would like to organize a peaceful protest to show up at the court on the day of the hearing,” she said, and asked for advice on how to do it correctly.

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice also expressed outrage. Bear hunting is not legal in Connecticut at any time, Vanderslice said in a statement.

“All of us in town government share the public’s outrage and concern about the poaching of two bears within Wilton. Bears are protected in Connecticut. There is not a bear hunting season. Environmental Affairs Director, Mike Conklin, will keep in contact with DEEP on this matter,” Vanderslice said in the statement.

“The two individuals are poachers, not hunters. They are not participants in the Town’s annual controlled deer hunt, which began on September 15th. Invited hunters are well experienced, safety oriented and have completed, at a minimum, all the appropriate state certifications courses and passed a Connecticut background check performed by the Wilton Police Department. The hunt is held for numerous reasons, including to reduce the spread of Lyme Disease and its crippling effects, to reduce motor vehicle accidents and to protect the ecology of the area.

“Please contact me or Mike at our email addresses.”

A bill to allow bear hunting in Connecticut was quashed in the legislature earlier this year.

In the Sept. 16 case, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection received an anonymous report Saturday that an archery hunter had illegally shot and killed two black bears on private property in Wilton.

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 a second person, Daniel Moran, age 33, of Norwalk.

Lio allegedly said he shot a bear as it was walking under his tree stand. Lio further admitted that he shot and killed a second bear 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.

After the initial investigation both men were arrested. Lio was charged with two counts of Illegal taking of black bear and one count of negligent hunting fourth degree. He was released on a $5,000 non-surety bond for the misdemeanors.

Moran was charged with conspiracy to commit illegal taking of black bear and was released on a $3,000 non-surety bond for the misdemeanor.

Both Lio and Moran are scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court on Sept. 28.

No mug shots were taken after the arrest, said Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the DEEP. He said Lio used a standard and typical hunting bow to take the bears, and a standard hunting knife to take the skin.

Lio was wearing camouflage hunting gear at the time of his arrest.

Private landowners can give permission for people to hunt on their land.  Hunting activities need to be in season, with proper weapons, with enough space away from dwellings, and for proper species. There is no hunting of bear allowed.

Black bears are common in Wilton. There have been 31 bear sightings reported to Wilton Animal Control in 2017, according to Animal Control Officer Chris Muir.

Black bears have been seen and photographed by Daryl Hawk of Hawk Photography. He expressed grief over the killings.

“Heidi and I, like so many others in town, are deeply saddened and shocked by the loss of the two black bears this weekend,” Hawk said in an email. He sent photos of a young bear that visited his property this summer.

“He was gentle, curious and quietly ambled about before going along back into the woods,” he said. ”What a senseless waste.”