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Hartford (AP) - Legislation creating a new lottery in Connecticut for bear hunting licenses cleared a key legislative committee on Wednesday.
The Environment Committee voted 19-to-9 in favor of a bill requiring the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to submit a report next year on the possibility of establishing a lottery. Proponents said it would be a way to raise revenue to help pay for things like parks and hatcheries, charging hunters $10 for the opportunity to purchase a $200 bear hunting permit.
While Connecticut does not currently have a bear hunting season, lawmakers said DEEP has the authority to establish one it decides it's necessary.
"The intention of the bill is to try and help the agency," Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, stressing how the legislation does not direct DEEP to establish a season for bear hunting.
But some legislators voiced concerns Wednesday about the prospect of bear hunts in Connecticut, questioning whether they are appropriate given the state's relatively small bear population. Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, said DEEP's estimate of 500 to 1,000 black bears in currently Connecticut is not a good enough number to base a decision to allow bear hunting.
"We annihilated the bear population a while back," Urban said.
The Humane Society of the U.S. also opposes the bill, arguing there's no scientific rationale or necessity for a bear hunting season. The group predicts the public would also oppose it.
In submitted testimony, DEEP officials agreed that a report evaluating whether a bear hunting season is needed, but suggested the state wait for data from a four-year study being conducted by the University of Connecticut of the black bear population in the northwestern part of the state. DEEP biologists are also collecting information about bears.