The Bears in Newtown: A Lesson for All of Connecticut
Updated: Feb 20
In Newtown, CT, in the early morning hours of May 12, 2022, a black bear left her two cubs safely hidden in a nearby tree and walked onto a neighboring property. Within minutes, seven shots rang out, immediately killing black bear #217, affectionately known in this small town as Bobbi, leaving her two, 4-month-old cubs orphaned and too young to care for themselves.
The death of Bobbi the Bear shattered a peaceful, tranquil day in Newtown. When the residents learned of her killing the outrage in the town was loud and palpable. The outrage grew louder when they learned that DEEP, the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s initial position was to leave the cubs in the area and “let nature take its course.” It turns out the cubs weighed only 9 and 11lbs., and according to wildlife experts, the cubs would have been unable to thrive and survive their first year away from the mother bear.
DEEP’s delay in rescuing Bobbi’s two infant cubs began a weeks’ long saga pitting town residents, wildlife rehabilitators, and elected officials, against DEEP. When it was revealed the shooter was an off-duty Ridgefield, CT police sergeant, another level of outrage spread within the community. Comments on the local Facebook pages were in the hundreds, the First Selectman’s office phone rang continuously, and hundreds of emails were sent to Newtown’s First Selectman’s Office and to DEEP. The outrage was not limited to just Newtown. Her shooting and death quickly became national news as the story of Bobbi’s death and her orphaned cubs spread across the country, with TV and newspaper coverage as far away as California.
With the increasing pressure of the residents, rehabbers, elected officials and the widespread press coverage, DEEP finally reversed its position and agreed to rescue the cubs and send them to a rehabber. After several days alone in the woods, the cubs were rescued and transported by DEEP personnel to the Kilham Bear Center in New Hampshire, a rehabilitation facility maintained exclusively for bear cub rehab and release. The cubs are doing well. A final decision on where to release the cubs will not be made for some time. You can learn more about the Kilham center as well as see the Newtown cubs, Izzy and Indra, in their care at:www.kilhambearcenter.org
This senseless killing tells us we must do more to educate ourselves about human-wildlife interactions in the human environment. Bears have become accustomed to easily finding food in populated areas. Trash cans, compost piles, bird feeders and pet food are a bear’s favorite and the most readily available source of human food. Chicken coops and beehives, now more commonly found in suburban neighborhoods, also attract bears.
Due to the continuous availability of “human-provided” food, bears have become accustomed to dining close to our homes. These food “attractants” have “habituated” bears to our neighborhoods. If the food source is removed, bears will leave the area to find food elsewhere. Unfortunately, Bobbi, a magnificent creature whose neighborhood sightings over the last 7 years brought joy to many of Newtown’s residents, became acclimated to the human environments. She paid with her life.
We should all have learned a lesson from the senseless killing of “Bobbi”. There are many more Bobbi (s) in CT who deserve to live and raise their cubs in peace - without becoming a target of sport for hunters. CT Votes for Animals is a founding member of the CT Coalition to Protect Bears, an organization comprised of animal and environmental advocacy groups to promote proven, non-lethal strategies that allow people and Connecticut’s native black bears to peacefully co-exist.
For the last several years there have been attempts by some in the General Assembly to pass laws allowing a bear hunt in the state. Last year the legislation failed by only four votes and there’s a strong likelihood CVA will be fighting off another effort next year.
CVA and the Coalition, have successfully fought off these attempts so far, but we need your help. First, educate yourself – watch the videos and keep coming back to CVA’s bear page: https://www.ctvotesforanimals.org/ct-coalition for new information on ways to deter bears from our living situations such as reminding neighbors to bring in the birdfeeders and delaying taking out the trash until the day of removal and other tips on what you can do to live peacefully and harmoniously with wildlife. Monitor CVA’s Facebook page for the upcoming educational webinars on living peacefully with CT’s bears and follow CVA on social media, respond to CVA alerts when the legislature is in session, and share CVA information with your friends and network. The lives of CT’s bears depend on you!
Adria Henderson, Newtown CT
CVA Advisory Council