BRISTOL – According to the Department of Environmental Protection, black bear sightings have increased throughout the state since the 1980s, but local animal control officers have kept residents safe by giving them tips for avoiding contact.
According to the DEEP data, 2020 saw a rise of bears entering homes, and by July 8, 2020, there were 25 reports in the state. So far in 2021, bear sighting reports are starting to come in. In Bristol there have been 28 reports, Southington 21, Berlin 15, Plymouth 11, Plainville 7, Newington 1 and New Britain has had no reports yet.
According to the DEEP, the state has a healthy and increasing bear population with the highest concentration in the northwest region.
Bristol Animal Control Officer Brian Skinner said, overall, residents have been calling in bear sightings less than in past years. However, sightings have occurred around the areas of Sperry Road, Burlington Avenue and Maple, Mix and Arch streets.
“I think people are starting to realize that they are just moseying on through looking for bird seed and they aren’t as evil as they thought,” Skinner said. “We’re telling people to take down their bird feeders since birds don’t need help finding food this time of year. This will help to alleviate incidents of bears coming back to homes."
Skinner advised people to keep their garbage cans inside a garage if possible. If that is not possible, he advised people to be cautious and to look around before going toward their cans.
“If you see a bear, look at them from afar – don’t approach them,” he said. “Let them move on. Banging pots and pans together will scare them off.”
New Britain Animal Control Officer Gerald Hicks said when a bear is spotted, they will send out an officer to the area and see if the animal is creating a danger.
"Often, bears will have left the area by the time an officer arrives," he said. "Responding officers will contact DEEP when they arrive on a scene where a bear is. DEEP is better equipped to handle a bear by using tranquilizers and other methods when necessary."
DEEP states the mere presence of a bear doesn't necessitate its removal.
"The department may attempt to remove bears from urban locations when there is little likelihood that they will leave on their own and when they are in positions where darting is feasible," the DEEP explains on its website. "The department attempts to monitor bear activity in developed areas in coordination with local public safety officials. Coordination and cooperation with officials on the scene and local police officials is a key, critical ingredient in educating the public and assuring a safe, desirable outcome in such a situation."
According to DEEP, adult black bears are between 5 and 6 feet long and weigh 150 to 450 pounds, while females weigh 110 to 250 pounds. They can detect the slightest aroma of food.
Although usually fearful of humans, they can lose their fear of humans if they regularly find food near their homes. However, unlike brown bears, they are rarely aggressive toward humans.
DEEP advises waiting until the morning of collection before bringing out trash or adding a few capsules of ammonia to trash bags and garbage cans to mask food odors.
People are encouraged to not leave pet food out at night and to store livestock food in airtight containers. They are also encouraged to thoroughly clean grills after use or store them in a garage or shed.
DEEP discourages putting meats or sweet smelling fruit rinds on compost piles and suggest sprinkling lime on the pile to reduce the smell and discourage bears.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.