Simsbury residents sound off on uptick in bears

HARTFORD --  Bear sightings were a big story across the state all summer long.

People in one Connecticut town are fed up and looking to local leaders to learn more about how to deal with their wild neighbors. According to town leaders, Simsbury is ground zero for bear encounters.

On Thursday night, town leaders and police held a meeting about bears and wanted to hear from residents.

Simsbury State Representative, John Hampton led the meeting with First Selectmen Eric Wellman.

“Eric our first selectmen and I, are really concerned that we are reaching a tipping point with the bear population. I just saw two yesterday, on two separate occasions. We’re having near misses at schools, school bus stops with children. We don’t want an accident to happen we want to get ahead of this issue.” said Rep. Hampton.

“Yesterday I was reviewing 911 call data over the past 10 years in the graph was really alarming. When you look at it, it’s been steadily increasing over the past decade. If we saw that trend happening to any other type of emergency we would be seriously saying what can we do, what’s going on.” Said First Selectman Eric Wellman.

Despite trapping and placement efforts by CT DEEP, and with no natural predator, the bear population in Connecticut is steadily increasing. DEEP estimates there are approximately 800 bears in CT, and that number grows roughly 10-15 percent each year.

Simsbury Animal Control Officer Mark Rudewicz handles the majority of bear calls in town.

“There’s a growing concern these animals are growing in numbers, and of course we’ve seen growth and development in these communities not just in the Farmington valley area, but throughout Connecticut.”

One resident and his family have felt the pain of bears, to the point where CT DEEP has an active trap in his backyard while this meeting was occurring.

Tony Uanino a Simsbury resident said, “DEEP set a trap in my yard. We had a bear attack our chickens last week, took one up a tree. And then a few days ago, he broke in and did a lot of damage to our coop, peeled the roof back, took the doors off. Took another chicken, came back five or six times in one night."

CT DEEP has confirmed this year will see a record amount of bear encounters, not even close to previous years. Addressing the bear population and considering a hunting season for bears will become a big issue for Connecticut law makers.