Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-522

Title:

AN ACT AUTHORIZING BEAR HUNTING IN CONNECTICUT.

Vote Date:

3/10/2017

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/6/2017

File No.:

241

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Sen. Craig Miner, 30th Dist.

REASONS FOR BILL:

With current re-forestation of Connecticut, the bear population has rebounded to where bears are now common in parts of Connecticut, estimated at a population of over 700 individuals. As the bear population grows, there is greater interaction between humans and bears – humans provide easy access to food sources and they have no natural predators. These interactions can lead nuisance issues and aggressive bear interactions. Bear relocation is expensive and potentially not effective as bears tend to return to their home ranges. The bill requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection commissioner to establish a black bear hunting season, applying the same requirements and restrictions that apply to deer hunting.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Robert J. Klee, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP): Supports the bill. Based on the tagging and tracking data gathered by the DEEP, the department estimates that Connecticut's black bear population is increasing at a rate of 10 percent per year. In the absence of natural predators and with easy access to food sources associated with the presence of humans, it is reasonable to project that the population will continue to increase, with the overall population reaching 3,000 or higher (based upon observed density in similar habitats). DEEP's bear management involves public outreach and education, research and monitoring, and intervention practices. None of these has any effect on population growth or distribution. The bill will allow DEEP to craft rules for a bear hunting program that would help manage the population and curb the escalating rates of bear-human interactions, while ensuring that bears have a place in our state's ecosystem now and in the future.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Tip Garritt, Former President, The Connecticut Trappers Association Inc.: The Connecticut bear population continues to expand at an alarming rate with human encounters occurring almost on a daily basis. In the past year, bear sightings have been reported in 134 of the 169 towns in Connecticut.

Timothy Reinke, Founder, Connecticut Whitetail Hunters & Outdoorsmen: This act would allow DEEP to manage the growing bear population in accordance with the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. A managed hunting season will allow state wildlife managers to control population numbers through the use of lawfully regulated hunting seasons with the ability to target trouble areas that have exceeded their carry capacity. Additionally, the bill will protect the public from possible dangers due to the increasing nuisance bear population.

Henry N. Talmage, Executive Director, Connecticut Farm Bureau Association: The Connecticut Farm Bureau supports the bill because of crop loss and other agricultural damage caused by wildlife. The Connecticut Farm Bureau's policy supports DEEP management of black bear population and allowing for hunting of black bear.

The Environment Committee received in approximately 14 additional similar testimonies supporting the bill as a means to control the growing bear population in Connecticut.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Lori Brown, Executive Director, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV): Recent experiences in other states, such as New Jersey or Florida, should be a red flag against this new proposal. These states experienced indiscriminant and over hunting of bears. In particular, the state of Florida stopped this practice within the first year due to over hunting.

Annie Hornish, Connecticut Senior State Director, The Humane Society of the United States: The best available science is clear that hunting will not help alleviate human-bear conflicts. Human-bear conflicts are caused by food availability, not the number of bears in the woods. Further, due to slow reproduction, bear populations are highly susceptible to overharvest.

Diana Urban, State Representative 43rd Dist.: The legislature has been responding to the habituation issue and it is premature to promulgate a hunting season for bears in Connecticut.

The Environment Committee received in excess of 150 additional similar testimonies opposing the bill explaining there are alternative and humane solutions to limit human and bear contact, bear population is not rapidly growing, and bears are slow to reproduce.

Reported by: Steve Smith / Ussawin R. Bumpen

Date: 3/24/2017