‘Capitol Connection’ Wildlife Update

September 19, 2011

As many of you know, our area of the state is home to beautiful scenery and lots of wildlife. Oftentimes much of that wildlife can be seen right in our own backyards. Many residents have spotted deer or turkeys, but some of us have even begun seeing bears roam throughout our yards.

According to a report put out by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), there have been 278 reported black bear sightings in Connecticut over the last year. And here in the 8th Senate District, residents have reported 89 of those sightings – nearly one third of the total.

The recent and steady rise in black bear population is because much of Connecticut’s landscape is now forested, making for suitable living conditions and habitat. DEEP expects that this rapid increase will continue and recommends residents learn how to safely live among these bears.

Black Bears vary in color from black to brown, have tan markings around their muzzle and range in weight – females between 110 lbs and 250 lbs, and males between 150 lbs and 450 lbs. Typically, black bears live in forested land, filled with deciduous and coniferous trees, streams, swamp and rocks – the landscape of northwestern Connecticut. These bears are omnivorous, meaning that they feed primarily on grasses, fruits, berries and nuts. They will also eat insects such as ants or bees, and occasionally will prey on small animals or deer. And as black bears are scavengers, you may notice them lurking around your garbage cans or taking the bird seed from your feeders.

If you do encounter a bear, you should know that the probability of a black bear attacking a human is very low. They are generally shy and usually fearful of humans.

Folks looking to avoid attracting black bears at home can follow some of these easy steps:

  • Remove bird feeders from late March through November.
  • Wait until the morning of collection before bringing out trash and keep trash bags in a container with a tight lid and store in a garage or shed.
  • Do not leave pet food outside overnight and store livestock food in airtight containers.
  • Do not put meats or sweet-smelling fruit rinds in compost piles. Lime can be sprinkled on the compost pile to reduce the smell and discourage bears.
  • Thoroughly clean grills after use or store in a garage or shed.
  • Never intentionally feed bears. This may lead to personal injury, property damage, and the need to destroy problem animals.
  • Encourage your neighbors to take similar precautions.

And if you wander past a bear while hiking you should:

  • Make your presence known by waving your hands;
  • Keep your pets on a leash and under control; and
  • Walk away slowly if you surprise a bear.

It is also important that you report a bear sighting. To make a report you may call the Wildlife Division of DEEP at 860.675.8130, or go online to www.ct.gov/deep and fill out a form.

Residents should also keep in mind and be aware that the bowhunting season is here. Beginning September 15th and continuing through January 31st, bowhunters can use private land to hunt deer. There are also state lands dedicated as bowhunting only areas, open September 15th through December 31st. Firearms deer hunting season on private land in Connecticut begins later, starting November 16th and continuing for two weeks. On state land, the firearms season is broken up into two seasons – ‘A’ season is November 16th through November 25th and ‘B’ season is November 26th through December 6th – and permits are done by a lottery. For information about hunting licenses and permits, visit the DEEP website at www.ct.gov/deep.

 Also, for those interested, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and Friends of Sessions Woods will be hosting Connecticut’s second Hunting & Fishing Appreciation Day. The event will be held on Saturday, September 24th at the Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area in Burlington and there will be fun activities for all ages, along with educational programs and workshops about hunting and fishing. More information can be found online at www.ct.gov/deep.