2 Bears Euthanized After Nearly Biting Hiker - NECN


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2 Bears Euthanized After Nearly Biting Hiker

2 Bears Euthanized After Encounter With Hiker

(Published Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015)

State officials have euthanized a bear that confronted a hiker in Connecticut last week, along with a second bear that also displayed aggressive behavior, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The male bear has been at the center of controversy since a hiker released video of her close encounter with the animal at the Sessions Woods Wildlife Area last Friday. Footage shows the bear approaching her and putting its mouth on her leg.

Wildlife experts analyzing the video said the bear, which was tagged, had a history of aggression and had been relocated in the past. Authorities deemed the animal a danger to the public and opted to euthanize it.

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said staff members seeking out the aggressive animal Tuesday night at Sessions Woods found a male and female bear near the area of the encounter.

Schain said the female, which had been tagged for research, matched the description of the bear they were looking for.

According to Schain, the female bear "exhibited similar aggressive behavior" to the animal involved in Friday's incident and charged at DEEP Wildlife Division staff. The female bear, which had also been tagged for research, was euthanized shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"It was definitely not the outcome anybody was hoping for," said hiker Stephanie Rivkin, whose bear encounter is at the heart of the issue.

DEEP returned to the woods Wednesday and euthanized the male bear.

"Given the incident on Friday and the previous behavior of the bear there was serious concern that it could have injured a person in any future encounter," Schain said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Annie Hornish of the Connecticut Humane Society criticized DEEP's decision, saying the agency "overreacted" and that "the bear did not need to be killed."

Hornish said the Humane Society interpreted the bear's actions as curious rather than violent.

She offered to help educate residents about what to do during bear encounters and said parks in northwest Connecticut need better signage warning hikers about the animals.

"I don't think anybody in this position expects something like this to happen, the consequences, the outcome, the backlash," Rivkin said. "But when it does happen, I think it's a great point to learn from it and start a discussion."

Petitions circulated after DEEP announced plans to put down the animal, along with a Facebook group bearing the hashtag #sparethebear.

Sessions Woods remains closed to the public.