State officials are once again taking up the issue of a legalized black bear hunt in Connecticut.
The General Assembly’s Environment Committee is holding a public hearing this morning, Friday, March 22, on a bill that would establish a lottery for bear hunting.
House bill 6654 was drafted by the environment committee and would establish “a bear hunting season by lottery,” which in turn could open the door to legalized bear hunting for the first time in Connecticut since 1840. A similar proposal raised last year by the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was vehemently opposed by animal rights groups and others and never made it to a hearing.
The current move for a bear hunt is part of an effort by the state to limit the black bear population in Connecticut, following several bear-human confrontations that have occurred in recent years.
In Madison last year, the DEEP got withering criticism for euthanizing a young, female black bear that had been roaming in residential neighborhoods in the shoreline area. In Simsbury and elsewhere local residents have shot and killed bears that have wandered into their yards seeking food from bird feeders or garbage cans.
Still, many oppose hunting the animals and the bear-hunt lottery proposal pending before the environment committee is already drawing opposition from residents and animal lovers from around the state. At least 20 people or groups have filed written testimony to the committee in advance of today’s hearing, many of them opposing the hunt.
“I treasure our state’s black bears and do not want to see them hunted and orphaned by trophy hunters. Instead, I ask that you maintain protections for Connecticut’s bears,” Ava Fiore, from Somers, wrote the committee. “Bear conflicts typically occur in residential areas, and not where hunting takes place. Trying to manage conflicts in one place by killing bears in another is completely counter-productive — and likely to result in orphaned cubs and much public outcry.”
In his testimony to the committee opposing bear hunting Richard Kragle of Glastonbury wrote: “There is no scientific rationale or necessity for instituting a hunt. The exact bear population is unknown; further, any bear population risk assessment would take several years to complete.”
That argument appears to be gaining favor with state environment officials, who want a study on black bears before hunting in Connecticut is taken up again.
Dennis Schain, the DEEP’s spokesman, told the Danbury News Times that the state and the University of Connecticut have started such a study and expect to complete it by 2016.
"The most appropriate course of action is to delay" legislation on black bear hunting, Schain told the newspaper.