One of my co-workers lives in the town of Harwinton with the Roraback Wildlife Management Area bordering his property. I look forward to seeing him every morning at work because he always has a story about black bears. It seems that he and his entire neighborhood experience daily visits from the bruins. On one occasion about two weeks ago, he reported that there were no less than five bears in his yard, all at the same time. Since moving to the area a few years ago, bear sightings on his property were a bit of a novelty. He described them as being very alert and that they would run off when they spotted a human. Over time however, the bears have grown accustomed to seeing people and seem to have grown bolder and not very easily frightened off.
By the mid to late 1800’s, black bears were no longer a part of the landscape of Connecticut. Loss of habitat due to the clearing of the land for farming and unregulated hunting were the primary reasons for their disappearance. Over time though, farms disappeared and the land has reverted back to forest, ideal habit for bears. There hasn’t been a bear hunting season here in over a hundred years which also has helped bears to thrive in our state.
The first reported sightings of black bears in modern times within our state were over 30 years ago. Since then, the population has grown to a point where bears are seen fairly regularly in nearly every town with Litchfield and northern Hartford counties being the seemingly most populated areas.
Now that we are approaching mid-June, I am making people aware of the fact that the black bear mating season is beginning. From June until about the end of July, male bears will be traveling far beyond their normal home ranges in search of females. As a result of this natural behavior cycle, people who otherwise may never have encountered black bears may suddenly be seeing one or two in their backyard or crossing a road while you’re on your way to work or school.
Baby bears are born in mid-winter while the mother is in her winter den. Although they sometimes can fall prey to coyotes or bobcats, young bears have a very high survival rate. Added to the fact that females breed every two years, giving birth to multiple young, the population can grow rather quickly. The American Black Bear is the most widely distributed species of bear in North America. Ranging from Connecticut to California and from the Mississippi to Alaska, they can be found nearly everywhere. They are very intelligent and possess keen senses, especially smell. Adult males can weigh up to 600 pounds, sometimes even heavier which can make them potentially dangerous to people, pets and livestock. Females with cubs are very protective of their young and can also pose a serious threat to anyone unwary of their presence. The outdoor world is full of wonderful things, both beauty and danger mixed together, a thrilling place to behold.