Connecticut’s bear population, estimated at 800, is growing “exponentially,” a newspaper reported the other day. This was a bit hyperbolic, since after 800 the next level in an exponential series is 800 times 800 — 640,000 — and the bear population will not be increasing that quickly.
But 640,000 bears in Connecticut will be the inevitable outcome unless the state’s largely indifferent policy toward bears is radically changed. That policy is simply to advise the public not to feed the animals — to secure trash cans, outdoor grills, and bird feeders and to hope the bears stop breaking into houses and attacking domestic animals. If that policy was accomplishing anything, there wouldn’t be 800 bears in the state already and their population wouldn’t be growing, “exponentially””or just fast. So in another 10 years or so this policy is bound to leave most towns with many bears bumping into each other as they are shooed away from one neighborhood to the next.
State government’s animal-control people are tiring of anesthetizing, tagging, and relocating troublesome bears, increasingly inclined to tell frantic callers just to let the animals move along and frighten someone else. But as the bear population grows, the animal-control people may be compelled to do a lot more relocations, even as the remote forests to which the bears are taken fill up with them and make them even more eager to return to less competitive neighborhoods.
The alternative to having bears everywhere is for state government to authorize a bear-hunting season, maybe even paying bounties to hunters. But just musing about hunting bears makes certain wildlife lovers hysterical.
Bears are cute — at a safe distance anyway. A few may contribute some excitement to Connecticut’s ordinarily placid suburban atmosphere. But a dozen or more in every town will not be cute. They will cause perpetual panic and frequent damage and injury.
Connecticut already is full of deer, which are cute too and often a delight to see with their fawns. Bucks, while rarely seen, can be majestic.
But deer are not a delight when they dart in front of cars and get hit, damaging vehicles and injuring their occupants, or when they munch on plantings, gardens, orchards, and farm fields.
So Connecticut has some deer-hunting seasons, and there is little clamor to repeal them. Don’t try telling farmers how cute deer are. Having worked so hard to get the earth to produce, farmers can obtain state permits to shoot deer on their property year-round to protect the fruit of their labor.
Enacting a bear-hunting season would eliminate the need for much more hunting in the future and thus be far kinder to the animals in the long run. But does Connecticut have any elected officials with the courage to admit that you can’t always be friends equally with people and animals?
It’s not just bears. How many coyotes, bobcats, weasels, and such does Connecticut really want to endure? Nature is not always warm and cuddly. It often has sharp claws and teeth.
But since Connecticut is not very good at facing up to policy failures and the special interests behind them, dozens of bears in every town may be necessary before the General Assembly and the governor enact something more in the public interest than laissez-bear.