In a quaint backyard pen the Harris family calls Grazing Goats Farm, Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats graze and play, seemingly unaware of predators lurking. Early Sunday morning this peaceful Burlington farm was awoken to the grim remnants of a bear attack which left five goats dead.
Steve Harris says they’ve seen bears and wildlife on the property before but have never had a conflict like this.
“We’ve seen foxes, coyotes and even a moose,” he said, “It’s like a wildlife highway.”
Harris says he believes the bear entered the pen by first breaking through a 3-footwooden fence. It then climbed a 6-foot chain link fence, attacking the goats inside. It’s then believed the bear dragged its prey over the fence and into wooded area.
“It’s not real common but we do have cases every year of livestock being killed by bears,” said Paul Rego, a State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection wildlife biologist.
The plan now is to set a non-lethal trap, capture the bear, tag it and put it through an aversive conditioning process called hazing.
During the hazing process no physical harm is done to the animal. It is a humane process, using audio and visual cues to harass the animal. The objective is to convince the bear to respect the human habitat and not return.
“Hazing is just giving the bear a very bad experience at the site and with humans,” explained Rego. “It’s actually an attempt to save the bear’s life by trying to change its behavior.”
Rego pointed out Connecticut’s bear population is growing quickly. It’s also the time of year when they are coming out of hibernation and are naturally searching for food.
“The spring is always a time of year of low food availability for bears so they are more tempted by a variety of human provided foods,” Rego explained, “whether it’s bird feeders, poorly stored garbage or in this case livestock.”
For families with livestock, Rego urged precaution
“The biggest thing people can do is exclusion.” he said. “Either having the animals completely contained with fencing, sides and top or electric fencing. Electric fencing is really one of the best precautions against black bears.”