ctnewsjunkie file photo
Black bear in Windsor in 2011 (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is again asking lawmakers to give it the power to stop the intentional feeding of potentially dangerous animals on private property.

State officials warn that feeding bears, coyotes, foxes, or bobcats can lead to violent confrontations between humans and animals, but at the moment there’s little role for the state agency to play beyond educating people about the danger.

The state already prohibits the feeding of wild animals like bear and coyote on state land, and federal law already bans feeding wild animals on federal properties. However, DEEP has no authority to address issues on private property.

“The ability to regulate feeding in specific instances on private property would provide the Agency with a much-needed tool for use in reducing negative interactions between the public and bear or coyote, and would provide an additional nonlethal response mechanism,” DEEP officials wrote in their proposal to the Office of Policy and Management. “This authority would be used judiciously to respond to threats to the public to de-escalate issues with dangerous animals.”

Some private landowners have continued to put out food to attract bears and other wild creatures to their property. As a result, the number of negative interactions between the public and these wild animals is increasing.

“The feeding of such wildlife by the public, whether intentional or inadvertent (e.g., unsecured garbage cans), can reduce their fear of humans and lead animals to associate humans with food,” DEEP officials said in their memo. “Most notably, bears that routinely forage on human-sourced foods often develop bold or aggressive behavior toward humans, leading to home incursions, attacks on pets and livestock, or even direct threats to humans (note reports of black bear killing a human in New Jersey, September 20, 2014, and more recent mauling of a human in Maryland on November 16, 2016, and more recently of 21 home incursions in Connecticut between June 19 and August 31, 2018.”

The lack of state authority has caused municipalities to consider passing their own ordinances banning the practice of feeding wild animals.

Granby has been discussing such an ordinance.

An online petition, specifically addressing black bears, has generated more than 300 signatures.

“Bear are a wonderful part of living in Granby. They are the town mascot. It’s important for the safety of bear, humans, and domestic animals that we be spectators only. Selfishly increasing their visits to our yards by feeding them, on purpose or carelessly keeping our trash, is not safe for them or us,” Elizabeth Hardersen wrote in her petition.

The General Assembly debated similar legislation in 2016 when it passed the House, but failed to get a vote in the Senate.

In recent years lawmakers have also debated allowing bear hunting, but the legislation has yet to come to a vote in both the House and Senate.

Hunting and trapping black bears is banned in Connecticut.