Keep an eye on the picnic basket. Bear sightings are surging across Connecticut.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says there were about 6,700 black bear sightings in 2016, a 49 percent increase over the previous year. Compare that to only about 450 sightings in 2000.
State wildlife biologist Paul Rego says black bear populations in Connecticut and other states have been increasing as land once used for farming has reverted back to forest. About 58 percent of the state is forest now, compared with 29 percent in 1860.
Rego says black bears disappeared from the state in the mid-1800s and didn't return until the early 1980s.
State officials urge residents to take precautions against attracting bears, including removing bird feeders and other sources of food from yards.