“There’s no need to sound the alarm bells and have a shoot-first mentality,” said State Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria (R – Beacon Falls).
Lawmakers and advocates on both sides discussed a new bill on Friday, one that would allow for a bear hunt and lottery in select Connecticut counties, while also prohibiting both intentional and unintentional feeding.
“I want to move this bill forward as a way to prevent these circumstances from occurring,” said Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes. “That’s really our goal. Not to reduce the population of bears, but to reduce the conflicts that are putting the people and bears at risk.”
DEEP reported 67 bear home entries in 2022. That's a record tally, but those in opposition don’t see hunting bears in the forest as a solution.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
“The bears killed in the woods are not the same bears posing problems, and the only way to resolve problems is to teach the public how to reduce attractants,” said Laura Simon, Connecticut’s Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Association president.
When it comes to education, Nicole Rivard of the CT Coalition to Protect Bears says DEEP has not done enough – a claim Dykes refuted on Friday.
“We’re working every chance we can to get the word out about how people can live safely with bears,” she said. “We just simply can’t continue to assure the public that we can keep them and our bear population safe with the tools that we have today.”
The bill is expected to return to the committee, where it will be reviewed in the coming weeks.