A 74-year-old Connecticut woman suffered bites to her arms and legs Friday when she was attacked by a black bear while out walking her dog on a leash in a Hartford suburb, state environmental officials said.
The woman was taken to a hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening, officials said.
The 12-year-old female bear was located a short time later by authorities, who killed the 250 pound animal, which will be tested for rabies. The bear had been tagged as part of the state’s bear tracking program.
This was the first bear-on-human attack this year in the state. There were two last year, including one in October in which a 10-year-old boy in Morris was mauled in a backyard.
Jenny Dickson, the director of the wildlife division of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the bear was in the area with three yearling cubs, but it is unclear why it attacked the woman in the suburb of Avon.
“It could have been just the general reaction bears have to dogs, whether they’re leashed or not,” Dickson said, adding bears tend to view dogs as predators.
Dickson noted it was also trash collection day in the area, and the bear may have been seeking food in the garbage. “It could have been that she was taking advantage of tasty meals and said, ‘I don’t want anybody near me when I’m getting my food,'” Dickson added.
She said the cubs, which were not harmed or captured, are at an age where they are not dependent on their mother.
Dickson said there have been a number of bear interactions with humans in Connecticut recently, including another this week in which a bear had to be put down after being found inside a home in Salisbury.
“The bear population is continuing to grow and expand,” she said. “We are also dealing with a lot of bears that have become both habituated and food-conditioned. They are getting very used to people. They are getting a little too comfortable around our yards and around our neighborhoods.”
Bear hunting is not allowed in Connecticut, but Dickson said the department has asked the legislature to legalize at least a limited hunt in areas of greater bear-human conflicts, in order to reduce that danger.
A bill allowing a hunt in northwestern Connecticut, where the bear population is most dense, failed to make it out of committee during the current legislative session. But lawmakers are still considering language that would allow special state permits to kill bears that threaten or damage crops, livestock or bees.
“Without effective wildlife management the bear population will continue to increase, and these types of interactions will happen more frequently,” said state Rep. Karen Reddington-Hughes, a Republican member of the environment committee who proposed the bear hunt.
There are between 1,000 and 1,200 black bears living in Connecticut, the department says, with sightings last year in 158 of the state’s 169 towns and cities.
By Pat Eaton-Robb