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Westport May See Black Bears As Species Rebounds

WESTPORT, Conn. – Residents of Westport should not be too surprised if they happen to see black bears around town.

The black bear population in the state has grown over the past 30 years, said Paul Rego, a wildlife biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. With more of the animals around, he said they are moving from their usual hot spots in the northwestern portion of the state and showing up in lower Fairfield County.

“The population is growing and spreading, so there are more and more reports of them in the southern part of the state,” Rego said. “They’re kind of returning to a better habitat. We have more forest than decades ago. The forest has regrown, and that has been important for habitat and suitable living.”

Westport has not yet received any calls about black bear sightings in town, Westport Animal Control Officer Peter D’Amico said. However, with sightings reported in nearby towns, he said it likely won’t be too much longer before he gets that call.

On July 24, New Canaan residents reported seeing a small black bear weighing about 250 pounds. In June, there were two reported black bear sightings in Fairfield and a female black bear was captured in Greenwich . Sightings have also been reported in Weston and Redding, D’Amico said.

Though the population is spreading, Rego said residents shouldn’t worry about seeing a parade of bears in areas such as downtown, as bears do not want to deal with people. But if someone notices a bear, he said making noise can cause it to leave.

“It’s very rare for them to be aggressive around people,” Rego said.

Like many wild animals, bears are attracted to food sources. State officials advise residents to follow these rules to avoid attracting bears near their homes:

  • Remove bird feeders and bird food from accessible areas from late March through November.
  • Store your garbage in secure containers. Dumpsters should also be bear secure. Adding ammonia to the garbage can will make it unpalatable.
  • Store and clean grills after use.
  • Don’t intentionally feed bears or any wildlife.
  • Don’t leave pet food outdoors overnight.
  • Don’t add meat or sweets to your compost pile.

If you do see a bear:

  • Make your presence known by waving your arms if you see a bear while hiking.
  • Walk away slowly if you surprise a bear nearby.
  • Don’t approach bear cubs as the mother may be nearby.

Residents who think they might have spotted a bear can call Westport Animal Control at 203-341-5076 or the Westport Police Department at 203-341-6000.

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