Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials concluded that a Newtown homeowner isn't at fault for the killing of a bear in May.
In their investigation, DEEP said that based on the facts of their investigation, officials concluded there isn't sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against a homeowner that shot and killed a bear, known as Bobbi to community members. Two bear cubs were left orphaned.
The homeowner was a Ridgefield police officer and he was placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation. He has since been reinstated and has returned to full-duty status, according to Newtown Police.
Over the course of the investigation, EnCon police officers interviewed the homeowner and determined that he had numerous encounters with the same bear over multiple days that caused him to "fear for the safety of his family, for himself, and for his livestock."
EnCon Police said that since 2017, the bear was captured, tagged and relocated on two separate occasions because it was showing signs of habituation. After the bear's relocation, it had over 175 documented human interactions, most occurring in the Southbury, Redding and Newtown areas, according to investigators.
State officials determined that based on the bear's behavior and frequent interactions with humans, it had lost its fear of humans and had learned to associate humans with sources of food.
The two orphaned cubs were placed in the care of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator after the incident, according to DEEP officials. Kilham Bear Center said they're in their cub barn with 30 other cubs.
The facility said the cubs will go into an 11-acre forested enclosure and at this time next year, they'll be released into the wild.
Connecticut statutes state that it's a crime to kill a bear and when a bear is killed, an investigation is opened. Officials said the State's Attorney's Office only files charges if there is sufficient evidence for a specific charge "beyond a reasonable doubt."
When the shooting happened, community members and animal advocates were up in arms frustrated by the lack of response by DEEP, who said it planned to originally keep the cubs in the wild.
As a result of this incident and due to the increase of human-bear conflicts, as well as bears breaking into homes, DEEP said further legislative clarity is needed to address bear-related incidents.
"The habituation of bears is dangerous for both bears and people. Habituated bears that find a food 'reward' such as a bird feeder, garbage can, or any other human-associated food quickly become food-conditioned and pose a greater risk to public safety and often cause damage to houses, cars, pets, and livestock. When bears associate people, pets, or livestock with sources of food, bear and human conflicts are more likely to increase," investigators said.
DEEP officials are continuing to propose legislation that if passed, would ban the feeding of bears. For now, they're asking people to avoid feeding bears. For more information, click here.
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