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Bear Population on Rise in Connecticut

Bear sightings are practically a daily occurrence in the northwest corner of Connecticut. In the past year, there have been 340 bear sightings in Avon alone, and speculation of bear dens near commercial areas, such as busy route 44.

These bears are lured into neighborhoods by bird feeders and garbage cans, and seem to be fearless in their efforts. Paul Rego, a biologist for the Wildlife Division of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), comments "we receive dozens of calls every week from people who just are not happy having bears living close to them."

Danielle Danler is one of these residents. A black bear came into her yard, attracted to the bird feeders. Concurrently, the family dog, Rocky, was playing in the yard. Rocky had been swiped by the bear, leaving him with several puncture wounds in his right side. After two surgeries, Rocky is doing well - but Danler, a mother of three, is still very shaken. Danler reveals, "I'm afraid to go to the bus stop with the stroller with my new baby. I'm afraid to have the kids play outside."

As a wildlife biologist, Paul Rego has been tracking black bears in Connecticut for 20 years. And according to his findings, it is the suburban areas that have the most sightings this year. Farmington leads the pack with 405 sightings since last June, with Avon coming in second with 338, and Burlington in third with 246. Rego explains, "There is a tendency for bears that live in those settings to lose their fear of humans." On top of that, Rego says, "We're seeing a high reproduction and high survival of both the young and adult bears."

Rego and fellow researcher, Jason Hawley, are currently following the movements of 35 bears in the state. One of these monitored bears winter den is thought to be a mere 2 blocks off route 44.

Hawley reveals that 80 percent of the cubs survive that first year of life. With a survival rate like that, officials take precaution. Bears are given the paintball treatment in an effort to make them fear humans again.

The University of Connecticut is currently conducting a study to pinpoint the exact population of bears in the state, which is the to close to 700. This data will be used to revisit the prospect of a controlled bear hunt. The results of the study are expected at the end of the year.

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