DEEP: Response to Bear at Sessions Woods

Additional Information on Bear at Sessions Woods

We understand that there is a great deal of public debate and discussion about how the situation involving the bear at Sessions Woods was handled – and that is reflected in the numerous emails and social media posts DEEP is receiving.

To offer a response to some of the questions raised and claims being made – and to correct some inaccurate statements - we wanted to provide the following information:
  • Feeding of Bears: Problems between black bears and people can occur when bears learn to associate people with food. Habituation to human food sources may cause a black bear to become bold and lose its fear of people, leading to even bigger problems. Bears that repeatedly visit homes, facilities or businesses are almost always drawn to a food source. (Black Bear Do's and Don'ts)
  • Bear Behavior: People must always be cautious around bears because bears may act unpredictably. Although some bears become used to people, they are still wild animals no matter how "tame" or “curious” they may appear. With the Sessions Woods bear, many are saying that the bear was just being curious or "doing what bears do." But that’s not what wild bears do — only the ones that have lost their fear of people or have become aggressive. Black bears may exhibit a number of expressions and actions in an attempt to intimidate. When agitated, a black bear may pop its jaws, utter a series of huffs, or swat the ground. They will sometimes bluff charge an intruder when cornered or threatened. While the bear’s interactions with the hiker at Sessions Woods may have looked almost playful – they were anything but. According to DEEP wildlife biologists, the bear was acting in the manner this species uses to track and test potential prey. They point to the fact that the bear followed the hiker for an extended period of time, circled her, put its mouth on her calf, pursued the hiker whenever she turned her back, and stomped, postured, and engaged in “jaw popping.”
  • Relocation of Bears in Connecticut: Although heavily forested, Connecticut is a highly developed state with no large, uninhabited areas where problem bears can be relocated. Relocated bears seldom remain where they are released. Bears, particularly males, have large home range and they can travel long distances. Relocated bears may return to where they were caught or become a problem somewhere else.
  • Bear Was Not Relocated to Sessions Woods: When the bear was relocated from the perimeter fence at Bradley Airport in June, it was released at Enders State Forest not Sessions Woods. It had traveled extensively through portions of our state and moved to Sessions Woods on its own. Sessions Woods is a wildlife management area (WMA) – not a park or a wildlife sanctuary. WMAs are areas of land and water that have unique or outstanding wildlife qualities. They are managed primarily for the conservation and enhancement of fish and wildlife and to provide opportunities for fish and wildlife-based recreation.
  • 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 and 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 situation to think a problem bear can just be moved to a zoo or sanctuary, but that is easy to say and hard to do. Black bears are not a high priority item for zoos or sanctuaries because they are so common. Zoos also do not have the capacity to take all problem bears that states have to deal with every year. Because black bears readily reproduce in captivity, there is no shortage of captive animals for zoos. An animal that has been raised in captivity will do well in captivity. It is difficult for a wild bear that has been roaming in the forest all its life to suddenly have to adapt to a small enclosure at a zoo or sanctuary. Even under the best of circumstances at the best of zoos, captivity cannot begin to replicate wild animals’ habitats. Animals in zoos are often prevented from doing most of the things that are natural and important to them, including being with others of their own kind.
More Information:
Content last updated September 3, 2015