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Black Bears Moving to Southern New England

By Lucas Willard


Pittsfield, MA – A mascot of the Adirondacks, and creature of New England's northern mountains, the black bear has a long history in the Northeast. Recently, rising numbers of sightings have been occurring through portions of Southern New England - where bears disappeared long ago after colonization and the creation of farmland in the 19th century.

In fact when the bears left, we lost a lot of other species too. Laura Conlee is the Black Bear Project Leader at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Many years later, as New England's farmland turned to forest land, black bears came back. Conlee says that bears first starting reappearing in Massachusetts in the mid 20th century, and the first hunting seasons for the game species were held in the 1970s. The hunting seasons for bears take only a small harvest, and are strategically placed each year to help protect bears and people.

Conlee also said that the bears are on the move. While commonly confined to the Western portions of the Commonwealth, bears have recently been tracked in Southeastern Massachusetts, and around Rhode Island, and into Connecticut.
Connecticut residents have reported over 2,700 black bear sightings in the state over the past year. But unlike Massachusetts, it is currently against the law to hunt for bear.

A Connecticut man was charged with illegal hunting after shooting a black bear in 2007. Last week, another man was charged after shooting a bear near his home in Windsor.

With more reports of bears damaging bird feeders and rummaging through trash cans for food, some have called out for more regulation on managing the animal.
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Cyndy Chanaca announced there is currently no proposal to allow bear hunting in the state.

Paul Rego, a wildlife biologist from the DEEP, stated that as state residents are seeing and hearing about more bears causing problems and encountering humans, it's a natural reaction for some to call for Connecticut to allow hunting.

Jeremy Hurst works for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation - where bears are common throughout. Hurst advised that people need to be watchful of the high calorie food they might accidentally provide for bears, including garbage, and birdseed.

Black bears are found throughout New York State, and New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and in mountainous areas throughout the country.