Report by Paula Antolini
August 23, 2018 5:24PM EDT
Latest Bethel Bear Sighting Today on Jacobs Lane
A large black bear was seen on Jacobs Lane in Bethel, CT today at 5:00 p.m., crossing from the north side of the road and heading into the woods on the south side of the road, near 19 and 20 Jacobs Lane (about half way down Jacobs). There appeared to be an ear tag on the bear, read more about tags below.
Read information below from the CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protecton (DEEP) and the National Park Service about what you should do when encountering a bear. This info. can carry over when you spot a bear in your own neighborhood.
We did report this to the Bethel Police who immediately sent an officer to the location, just to monitor where the bear was sighted last. We also reported to DEEP (see how to report, below).
Although the bear did not seem aggressive, this was no small bear, and you can never be too cautious. Stay safe out there! Definitely take precautions and keep children and pets indoors in the area. See more advice below.
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Black Bear Do’s and Don’ts
Black bears are becoming increasingly common in Connecticut as the population continues to grow and expand. Reports of bear sightings, even in heavily populated residential areas, have been on the rise. The Wildlife Division has also seen an increase in the number of reported problems with black bears. The primary contributing factor to bear nuisance problems is the presence of easily-accessible food sources near homes and businesses. Fed bears can become habituated and lose their fear of humans. Bears should NEVER be fed, either intentionally or accidentally. Connecticut residents should take the following simple steps to avoid conflicts and problems with black bears:
BEARS NEAR YOUR HOME
Bears are attracted to garbage, pet food, compost piles, fruit trees, and birdfeeders.
DO remove birdfeeders and bird food from late March through November.
DO eliminate food attractants by placing garbage cans inside a garage or shed. Add ammonia to trash to make it unpalatable.
DO clean and store grills in a garage or shed after use. (Propane cylinders should be stored outside.)
DON’T intentionally feed bears. Bears that become accustomed to finding food near your home may become “problem” bears.
DON’T approach or try to get closer to a bear to get a photo or video.
DON’T leave pet food outside overnight.
DON’T add meat or sweets to a compost pile.
BEARS SEEN WHEN HIKING OR CAMPING
Bears normally leave an area once they have sensed a human. If you see a bear, enjoy it from a distance. Aggression by bears towards humans is exceptionally rare.
DO make your presence known by making noise while hiking. Hike in groups. If you see a bear, make enough noise and wave your arms so the bear is aware of your presence.
DO keep dogs on a leash and under control. A roaming dog might be perceived as a threat to a bear or its cubs.
DO back away slowly if you surprise a bear nearby.
DON’T approach or try to get closer to a bear to get a photo or video.
DON’T run or climb a tree. If possible, wait in a vehicle or building until the bear leaves the area.
DO be offensive if the bear approaches you. Make more noise, wave your arms, and throw objects at the bear. Black bears rarely attack humans. If you are attacked, do not play dead. Fight back with anything available.
DON’T cook food near your tent or store food inside your tent. Instead, keep food in a secure vehicle or use rope to suspend it between two trees.
BEARS, LIVESTOCK, AND BEEHIVES
Bears occasionally attack livestock (chickens, goats, etc.) and damage beehives.
DO protect livestock with electric fencing and move livestock into barns at night if possible.
DO reinforce beehives to prevent them from being knocked over or protect them with electric fencing.
WHEN BEARS COME TO VISIT
If a bear is seen in your town or neighborhood, leave it alone. In most situations, if left alone and given an avenue for escape, the bear will usually wander back into more secluded areas. Keep dogs under control. Stay away from the bear and advise others to do the same. Do not approach the bear so as to take a photo or video. Often a bear will climb a tree to avoid people. A crowd of bystanders will only stress the bear and also add the risk that the bear will be chased into traffic or the crowd of people.
If a bear is in a densely populated area, contact the DEEP Wildlife Division (860-424-3011, Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM-4:30 PM) or DEEP Dispatch (860-424-3333, 24 hours) to report the sighting and obtain advice. The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. However, 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 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.
Black Bear Frequently Asked Questions
Where Are Black Bears Found in Connecticut?
Black bears occur throughout much of the state. Each year, bear sightings are reported from approximately 140 of the state’s 169 towns. Over 6,000 sightings were reported in 2016. Connecticut has a healthy and increasing bear population with the highest concentration in the northwest region of the state.
View the list of black bear sightings in Connecticut
Why Are Bears in My Neighborhood?
Many homes are in or near bear habitat. The bear population is healthy and increasing in Connecticut and sightings are becoming more common. Bears spend time in neighborhoods because food sources are abundant and easy to access (birdfeeders, garbage, open compost, grills, etc.) They will readily use these food sources and revisit the same location over and over again. Bears that are attracted to human-associated food sources may lose their fear of people. Both you and your neighbors need to take steps to make yards and neighborhoods less attractive to bears, mainly by removing any food sources.
Black Bear Do’s and Don’ts
What Should I Do if I See a Black Bear in My Yard?
If you see a black bear in your yard, enjoy the sighting from a distance and report your sighting. However, be sure that you are not doing anything to attract the bear to your yard. Attempt to scare the bear off by making noise, such as banging pots and pans or shouting. Once the bear has left the area, take a close look at your yard for potential bear food sources, such as birdfeeders, pet food, dirty barbeque grills, open compost, or trash, and REMOVE those food sources IMMEDIATELY. Bears have incredible long-term memory and will revisit places where they have found food, even months or years later. Bears that are frequently fed, either intentionally or unintentionally through birdfeeders or garbage, may become habituated and lose their fear of people. If a bear behaves in a way that is a threat to public safety, it may have to be euthanized by the department.
When Can I Put Out Bird Feeders?
If you choose to put out bird feeders, do so in the winter months from December through late-March when bears are in their dens. Although most bears enter dens at some point, some can remain active for portions of or the entire winter season if food is available. It is important that you remove bird feeders at the first sign of bear activity.
If you live in an area with bears, it is best to avoid bird feeders altogether. Bears that find bird feeders will often repeatedly visit the site in search of food day after day and year after year. Bird feeders and other bird food will attract bears closer to homes and humans. When bears begin to use human-associated food sources, they will frequent residential areas, lose their fear of humans, and not flee when harassed. They can even cause damage by breaking into outbuildings and homes in search of food.
For those who enjoy watching birds, establish native plants in your yard and add water features to attract birds. These methods may increase bird diversity and prevent unnatural feeding of a variety of wildlife species. Learn how you can bring wildlife to your yard with native landscaping.
Is It Safe to Hike, Run, Bike, or Walk My Dog in the Woods?
Yes! It is safe to enjoy the outdoors regardless of what region of the state you live in or are visiting. Dogs should always be on a leash and supervised so that they can be kept under the owner’s direct control and avoid interactions with wildlife. When visiting areas where bears are more common, hike in groups and make your presence known by talking or singing. Keep small children close by and on trails. Although black bears have injured and even killed humans in North America, such cases are exceptionally rare. Always be aware of your surroundings and if you happen to encounter a bear, follow the advice offered in the next question.
What Should I Do if I Encounter a Bear?
Remain calm and observe the bear from a distance. Do not approach or try to get closer to a bear. If the bear is unaware of your presence, back away or make noise which will often cause the bear to flee. If the bear is aware of you and does not flee, talk to the bear in a calm voice and back away slowly. Never run or climb a tree. If the bear approaches, be offensive. Make more noise, wave your arms, and throw objects at the bear. Black bears rarely attack humans. However, if you are attacked, do not play dead. Fight back with anything available.
How Can I Protect Myself from Black Bears While Camping?
Keep your camp site clean! Pick up all garbage and food scraps and store them in wildlife resistant trash containers. Store food in double plastic bags or tightly sealed containers and keep it in your car if possible. Contained food can also be stored in a backpack and hung from a tree at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from the tree trunk. Never store food in a tent. When camping, sleep at least 100 yards from your cooking area and food storage site. If this is not possible, take extra precautions to thoroughly clean and store away all cookware and pick up any food scraps.
What Does It Mean if a Bear Has a Collar or Ear Tags?
A common misconception is that a tagged bear in Connecticut is a problem bear, and a bear with two ear tags was caught on two different occasions because it was causing problems. Actually, every bear receives two ear tags (one in each ear) the first time it is handled by DEEP, regardless of why it was tagged. Most tagged bears have not been caught as problem bears, but rather as part of a project to research the state’s bear population.
Ear tag color indicates the year the bear was tagged. For example, a bear with yellow tags was handled in 2016, and one with pink tags was handled in 2013, regardless of age, gender, or reason for tagging
Each colored tag has a 3 digit number code. The last digit indicates the year, while the first 2 numbers indicate the sequence in which it was caught. For example, a bear with ear tag “03-6” would be the third bear handled in 2016, and a bear with ear tag “20-4” would be the twentieth bear handled in 2014.
Ear tags help biologists track bear movements and dispersal. Bears tagged in Connecticut have traveled as far as Vermont. Bears tagged in New York, Massachusetts, and even Pennsylvania have shown up in Connecticut. Ear tags can also help identify individual bears that have a repeated problem behavior.
A bear with a collar will also have ear tags. The collar helps biologists locate a bear and track its movements. Data collected from collars provides biologists with important information about the growth, movements, and health of Connecticut’s bear population.
Why Can’t a Problem Bear Be Relocated?
Relocation of Bears in Connecticut: Although heavily forested, Connecticut is a highly developed state. No large areas without humans are available to relocate a problem bear. Relocated bears seldom remain where they are released. Bears, particularly males, have a large home range of 12 to 60 square miles and travel long distances. They have a strong homing instinct and may return to where they were caught or become a problem somewhere else.
Relocation of Bears to other States: Black bears cannot be relocated to other states, including larger western states like Montana or Colorado, because other states will not accept any bears, especially problem bears. States with growing or large bear populations have similar policies as Connecticut’s. Other state wildlife agencies would also euthanize an aggressive bear that is a public safety concern.
Relocation of Bears to Zoos or Sanctuaries: The Connecticut DEEP does not take wild animals that have become unresolvable human safety issues into captivity. It may be a feel-good solution for a problem bear to be moved to a zoo or sanctuary, but that is easy to say and hard to do. Black bears are not a high priority species for zoos or sanctuaries because they are so common. Zoos also do not have the capacity to take all problem bears that states deal with each year. Because black bears readily reproduce in captivity, there is no shortage of captive bears for zoos. Animals that are raised in captivity do well in captivity. It is difficult for a wild bear that roams in the forest for all its life to suddenly adapt to a small enclosure at a zoo or sanctuary. Even under the best circumstances at the best zoos, captivity cannot replicate a wild animal’s habitat.
What Is Aversive Conditioning and Why Is It Used for Bears?
Aversive conditioning is a technique that uses negative stimuli (i.e., shooting with rubber bullets or paintballs, pepper spray, loud noises, etc.) to cause pain, avoidance, or irritation in an animal engaged in an unwanted behavior. The bear learns to associate the undesirable behavior with a negative experience, and thus be more likely to avoid conflict in the future. Research on this technique has shown it has limited effectiveness, but may be valuable in providing a short-term solution to human-bear conflicts.
What Should I Do if I See a Bear?
Seeing a bear in the wild is a special treat for any visitor to a national park. While it is an exciting moment, it is important to remember that bears in national parks are wild and can be dangerous. Their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Although rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Each bear and each experience is unique; there is no single strategy that will work in all situations and that guarantees safety. Most bear encounters end without injury. Following some basic guidelines may help to lessen the threat of danger. Your safety can depend on your ability to calm the bear.
When you arrive in a park, always remember to check with the nearest visitor center or back country office for the latest bear safety information.
Avoiding an Encounter
Following viewing etiquette is the first step to avoiding an encounter with a bear that could escalate into an attack. Keeping your distance and not surprising bears are some of the most important things you can do. Most bears will avoid humans if they hear them coming. Pay attention to your surroundings and make a special effort to be noticeable if you are in an area with known bear activity or a good food source, such as berry bushes.
Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating.
- Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.
- Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by wooﬁng, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.
- Pick up small children immediately.
- Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.
- Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
- Do NOT allow the bear access to your food. Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.
- Do NOT drop your pack as it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.
- If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase ﬂeeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.
- Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.
- Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.
Bear attacks are rare; most bears are only interested in protecting food, cubs, or their space. However, being mentally prepared can help you have the most effective reaction. Every situation is different, but below are guidelines on how brown bear attacks can differ from black bear attacks. Help protect others by reporting all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately. Above all, keep your distance from bears!
- Brown/Grizzly Bears: If you are attacked by a brown/grizzly bear, leave your pack on and PLAY DEAD. Lay ﬂat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck. Spread your legs to make it harder for the bear to turn you over. Remain still until the bear leaves the area. Fighting back usually increases the intensity of such attacks. However, if the attack persists, fight back vigorously. Use whatever you have at hand to hit the bear in the face.
- Black Bears: If you are attacked by a black bear, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. Try to escape to a secure place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, try to ﬁght back using any object available. Concentrate your kicks and blows on the bear’s face and muzzle.
If any bear attacks you in your tent, or stalks you and then attacks, do NOT play dead—ﬁght back! This kind of attack is very rare, but can be serious because it often means the bear is looking for food and sees you as prey.
Bear Pepper Spray
Bear pepper spray can be an important thing to carry when exploring the back country. It is used defensively to stop an aggressive, charging, or attacking bear. Although it’s used in the same manner you would use mace on an attacking person, bear pepper spray and human pepper spray are not the same. Make sure you select an EPA approved product that is specifically designed to stop aggressive bears. It is not a repellent so do not apply to your body or equipment. Check with your national park to see if bear pepper spray is recommended or allowed for the activities you have planned. Learn more about selecting and using bear pepper spray in this introductory video or by visiting the Using Spray to Deter an Aggressive Bear page on Yellowstone’s website.