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Black bear euthanized after attacking child, Connecticut environmental officials say

A Department of Energy and Environmental Protection biologist photographed a black bear earlier this year wandering through a Connecticut yard.
File: Provided Photograph
A Department of Energy and Environmental Protection biologist photographed a black bear earlier this year wandering through a Connecticut yard.

A 250-pound black bear was euthanized after attacking a 10-year-old, Connecticut environmental officials said.

Around 11 a.m. Sunday, state police and state environmental police responded to an incident in Morris in western Connecticut in which a black bear had attacked a boy. Officials said the boy was playing in the backyard of his home when he was injured.

The boy was taken by ambulance to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital; officials said his injuries don’t appear to be life-threatening.

The bear remained near the scene and was located and euthanized by Environmental Conservation Police with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

The boy’s grandfather described the harrowing attack to the Republican-American of Waterbury. James Butler said his grandson was playing near a trampoline when the bear emerged from thick woods behind the house.

“I heard him yell ‘bear’ and when I looked up, I saw his leg in the bear’s mouth and the bear trying to drag him across the lawn,” Butler said.

Butler, who uses a wheelchair, wheeled his chair toward the bear and threw a metal bar at its head, he told the newspaper.

The bear released the boy but then grabbed the child a second time and used its claws to try to roll the boy onto his back, the grandfather said.

A neighbor alerted by the boy’s screams raced over and scared the bear off by brandishing a pipe and yelling, Butler said.

State environmental officials said the euthanized bear's remains will be sent to UConn for a necropsy and a rabies test.

"It's important to have conversations with your kids about living with black bears," said Jenny Dickson, wildlife director with DEEP.

She encourages people to learn more about black bears at the DEEP website.

The weekend bear encounter comes as the number of bears recorded entering Connecticut homes in 2022is already almost double the amount of recorded home entries from all of last year, according to state environmental officials.

Through Sept. 29, the state had recorded 65 complaints of bear home entries. It's a surprisingly large figure — and one that's more than double the average number of entries recorded each year from 2017 through 2021.

Dickson said the state's bear population has become habituated and food-conditioned by human behavior.

"We've got a lot of bears who've learned to do bad things. They're teaching other bears to do bad things, and the population is continuing to grow," she said.

Advice from the DEEP about living with black bears

  • Never feed bears, intentionally or accidently
  • Remove birdfeeders and bird food from late March through November
  • Securely store garbage in airtight containers inside an enclosed area
  • Keep barbecue grills clean
  • Do not leave pet food outdoors
  • Supervise pets when outside
  • Avoid placing meat scraps or sweet foods (fruit, fruit peels, etc.) in compost piles

The DEEP website says if you see a bear in your yard, do not approach it.

"Go into your house, garage, or other structure," DEEP says. "If the bear persistently approaches, go on the offensive — shout, wave your arms, and throw sticks or rocks."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Eric Aasen is executive editor at Connecticut Public, the statewide NPR and PBS service. He leads the newsroom, including editors, reporters, producers and newscasters, and oversees all local news, including radio, digital and television platforms. Eric joined Connecticut Public in 2022 from KERA, the NPR/PBS member station in Dallas-Fort Worth, where he served as managing editor and digital news editor. He's directed coverage of several breaking news events and edited and shaped a variety of award-winning broadcast and digital stories. In 2023, Connecticut Public earned a national Edward R. Murrow Award for coverage that explored 10 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, as well as five regional Murrow Awards, including Overall Excellence. In 2015, Eric was part of a KERA team that won a national Online Journalism Award. In 2017, KERA earned a station-record eight regional Murrow Awards, including Overall Excellence. Eric joined KERA after more than a decade as a reporter at The Dallas Morning News. A Minnesota native, Eric has wanted to be a journalist since he was in the third grade. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from DePauw University in Indiana, where he earned a political science degree. He and his wife, a Connecticut native, have a daughter and a son, as well as a dog and three cats.
Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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