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Get rid of bird feeders, experts say. Bear season is beginning in CT

Black bear in Connecticut finds a bird feeder.
Robert Winkler
iStockphoto / Getty Images
Black bear in Connecticut finds a bird feeder.

A warm March means Connecticut’s black bears will be on the move earlier than normal.

The first day of April is the standard date for town bird feeder bans to take effect, but wildlife officials say temperatures, not calendar dates, should determine when homeowners take extra steps to remove bear food sources from their yards.

“It's so hard to give a date now because animal movements are so influenced by the weather which has been changing,“ Laura Simon, president of the Connecticut Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, said.

Warmer temperatures mean more bears are active earlier in the season and looking for food.

According to the 2024 The State of the Bears report from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the vast majority of bear issues between 2020 and 2023 involved bird feeders and garbage.

“We're causing the problem and we blame the bears,” Simon said.

Earlier this month, a Pennsylvania woman was attacked by a mother bear when she let her dog outside. She had a bird feeder in her yard. The bear and her cubs were seen eating from it in the weeks before the attack.

A similar incident occurred in Litchfield County last year. A man was bitten on the hand by a bear when he let his dog outside, it chased the bear, the bear attacked and the owner tried to save the dog. There were bird feeders on the porch.

That was one of two bear attacks in Connecticut in 2023, according to state officials.

But experts are also looking at how the weather might influence how much contact bears have with humans.

Last year, when the state got a lot of rain, there were 35 bear home entries. The year before when there was a drought, home entries reached a record 67 incidents.

State officials said if there is adequate rainfall, it leads to abundant natural foods throughout the year for bears making them less desperate for food.

Even with the decrease in home entries last year, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said Connecticut’s numbers are still higher relative to neighboring states with a breeding bear population

Over the last six years, New York and Massachusetts have less than one home entry per 100 bears each year, while Connecticut has averaged 3.1 home entries per 100 bears.

Connecticut enacted a new law last year which makes it illegal to intentionally feed bears and farmers can apply for a permit to kill bears who damage crops or livestock.

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.