How many bears does each each town in Connecticut want?
When will Connecticut take the hint it long has been getting from its increasing population of bears, a hint that was reiterated two weeks ago when one repeatedly tried to break into houses in the Canton area, getting into at least one home before being euthanized by environmental police?
That bear was unusually aggressive and would not be scared away, as most bears can be. But even ordinary bears have been causing more problems in Connecticut lately. They have damaged farm crops and killed or injured farm animals, and whenever bears show up, neighborhoods and schools have to close down until they wander away.
Apologists for the bears blame people for not sufficiently securing their trash cans and bird feeders, thus leading the bears to associate people and houses with food.
But many people won't do better with their trash, and in any case their doing better won't stop the bear population from growing and causing more danger and inconvenience, as the Canton incident suggested, since the troublesome bear left behind three cubs. One died when tranquilized and the other two were helpfully relocated by the environmental police. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, they'll be back.
The General Assembly's behavior here isn't much better. The legislature keeps acting as if the bears will go away before they overwhelm the state. In March the legislature's Environment Committee defeated 18-13 a bill that would have merely allowed farmers to kill bears to protect their farms, just as farmers already can obtain permits to kill destructive deer on their property.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimates that 1,200 bears are roaming Connecticut. Most haunt the more rural northwestern part of the state, where bear sightings are almost routine. But now even towns east of the Connecticut River are afflicted.
The department reports that last year there were 124 sightings in Eastford, 54 in East Haddam, 44 in Chester, and even 22 in Old Saybrook on Long Island Sound.
Some sort of bear hunting season is required, if only in Litchfield and northern Fairfield counties. The alternative is to resign Connecticut to having dozens of bears in every town in another 10 or 20 years, with residents spending a lot of time at home trying to shoo the animals into the yards of their neighbors and towns trying to shoo them back and forth across town lines.
Tighter trash can lids won't solve this problem any more than municipal zoning will.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.