Editorial: Black bears are here to stay. We need to learn to live with them.

West Hartford resident Bill Priest said it best: “I was in total shock.”

And let’s all be honest with each other, how else would you feel if you walked into your kitchen and there was a big black bear munching on marshmallows? (Turns out bears love them, too.)


And Priest, who has now become relatively well known around the state for what he did — actually keeping his cool and chasing the pesky ursine out of the kitchen — had to scream at the animal to get the ‘get out’ message across.

It came back the very next day.


This time the animal ripped a screen trying to get in, and we agree with Priest that this was alarming.

Given that the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimates there are more than 1,200 bears living in our state, the idea of a bear coming into your house should be alarming to more people than just Priest.

Do the math. There are 169 towns in Connecticut, and that many bears means about seven bears per town.

Of course it does not quite work that way: While bears are territorial, they don’t honor municipal lines. Even though DEEP’s Wildlife Sighting Public Viewer is not particularly user-friendly, it does show bears are more partial to some parts of the state than others.

In reported sightings to date in 2022, for instance, it shows that Torrington has had 369. At the other end of the state, woodsy Old Lyme had fewer than 30. The bear epicenter appears to be in the Farmington Valley and toward the Northwest Corner. But you don’t need to tell Priest that, and you likely don’t need to tell most Connecticut residents that we live in a state where the bear comeback is what DEEP calls “a success story.”

We don’t dispute that a nature comeback is a win for the state. The same goes for the presence of bobcats and other animals that were uncommon or nonexistent until a few years ago. Many of us are no longer surprised when we hear coyotes howling at night.

We also don’t dispute that we as people can contribute to what DEEP calls the habituation of bears — and that means we attract them by leaving out birdseed, garbage and other potential edibles.

“Bears learn from us,” said Jason Hawley, state wildlife biologist on the bear program with DEEP told The Courant. “The more bears are interacting with people, the more comfortable they become.”




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It turns out bears are not only really smart and agile (they open doors), they also have good noses. Maybe even good enough to smell those enticing marshmallows Priest left in his kitchen?

We know bears come for the food and not our company, and the problem seems to be growing as more Connecticut residents report issues with the large, clawed animals. Earlier this summer, a bear that broke into multiple homes in Canton was euthanized by DEEP.

That bear had cubs, and that’s unfortunate, but she had clearly become habituated and that means more dangerous to people.

And therein is the problem: Bears are potentially dangerous to people and livestock, while not understanding people simply do not want to share our homes, garages, barns or lunch with them.

It would not be possible to keep all the food in our kitchens sealed in a way that no passing bear could get a whiff of cookies baking or marshmallows sitting on a countertop.

But it is possible for all of us to stop feeding birds from April to November, to lock up garbage and to keep campsites tidy. Possible for us to be part of the solution.


A bear’s life may depend on it, and we hope that no homeowner has to face a bear in their kitchen again.