Residents in Simsbury say the bear problem in Connecticut has gotten so bad that they’re concerned about safety and town leaders held a forum Thursday night to discuss options.
According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s website, Simsbury has had 426 bear sightings over the course of about a year. The only Connecticut town with more is Farmington.
Simsbury town leaders worry they’re reaching a tipping point.
“They're in your pool, they're on your playscapes and they're in your garage,” said resident Diane Conroy.
Bear sightings are common for Simsbury residents. The animals are often spotted in backyards, on trampolines, inside cars and even inside homes.
“I don't want bears killed, I don't want to hurt anything. I just don't want my family to be hurt,” Dawn Cohen said.
At the community forum, Simsbury’s first selectman, animal control officer and state representative listened to concerns and personal stories about bear encounters.
“We had a bear attack our chickens last week, took one up a tree,” resident Tony Aunino said. “And then a few days ago, he broke in and did a lot of damage to our coop, peeled the roof back, took the doors off it, took another chicken, came back five or six times in one night. We just kept chasing it off.”
Cohen said bears visited her and her 9-year-old daughter three times one day. During the third, the bear broke into their home.
“The bear started to put his snout in between our doors,” said Cohen’s daughter Evelyn.
Neighbors said banging pots and pans or using an air horn isn’t scaring the animals away.
Several suggestions were floated at the meeting, including a hunting season for bears, a relocation program, a town ordinance not to leave trash cans or bird feeders out, an awareness campaign and adding GPS locators for bears.
“This year we've already gotten more emergency calls about bears than we've gotten in any previous year and the year's not even over yet,” Simsbury First Selectman Eric Wellman said.
Town leaders said they want to get ahead of the issue, but some residents think moving might be the only option.
“I feel like I made a pretty big mistake moving here,” Adina Ciobotaru said.
Elected leaders said they want to discuss the issue with other lawmakers, DEEP, and law enforcement to come up with a plan to combat the bear problem.