By Philip R. Devlin
(May 12, 2023) — Black bears have been in the news lately. Barely a day goes by when there isn’t yet another story of a bear sighted in someone’s backyard, entering a home, knocking down a bird feeder, or stopping traffic on a rural road.
The bear population in Connecticut has risen sharply in recent years, and encounters with humans are now commonplace. 67 bear home entries were reported in 2022; bear sightings occurred in 158 of Connecticut’s 169 towns last year. 20 bear sightings occurred in Haddam in 2022, 19 in East Haddam, and just 1 in Killingworth. Avon leads the way with 498 sightings!
The total bear population in Connecticut is believed to be between 1,000 and 1,200. The state legislature this spring entertained a bill to allow limited hunting of black bears to reduce their numbers in the state. Initially tabled, that bill was resurrected recently following a well-publicized bear attack on a woman and her dog in Farmington.
The interaction of bears with humans, however, is nothing new to Connecticut, as the following article from the New London Gazette dated October 10, 1766 clearly demonstrates:
“There are the greatest number of bears come down among the town that ever was known. They destroy great quantities of Indian corn and make havoc among sheep and swine. Last Tuesday morning a large he-bear was discovered in an enclosure opposite the Treasurer’s and being pursued, he took to the main street, which he kept till he got to the lane that turns eastward by the south meeting house, (notwithstanding his being pelted from every side of the street, with stones, clubs, etc.) and was followed into the south meadow where he was shot. The number of people that were out of doors to see so uncommon an animal in the town made it dangerous to fire at him in the street. In the evening he was roasted whole, and a large company supped on him.”