Bear Necessities

Last year, there were 2,251 bear sightings in Connecticut. As many as 700 adult and cub bears live in the state. Residents spotted 3,249 bobacats too.

That’s a big change from a century ago. According to Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse, by the late 1800s, almost all forest here had been logged for agriculture, fuel and construction.

Bears, bobcats and deer were rare.

But forests grow back. And — with strong laws also regulating hunting — large animals have habitats in which they thrive.

Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse, and a black bear.

Dr. Rittenhouse should know. She is a wildlife expert, and an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Connecticut. Her long-term research project examines how black bears have expanded their range to include suburban areas of the state.

Next Wednesday (November 14, 7:30 p.m., Westport Unitarian Church) she’ll speak about bears and other large mammals — specifically, why we see so many more of them these days, and what it means for folks like us.

The talk is part of Aspetuck Land Trust‘s Haskins Lecture Series. Scientists Caryl and Edna Haskins donated their Green Acre Lane estate to the trust in 2002. It’s now a 16-acre preserve, just off South Compo Road.

Caryl Haskins earned renown as an ant biologist.

Bears and bobcats are somewhat larger. But they’re all part of our Westport world.

For anyone hoping to understand our changing town, Wednesday’s talk should be fascinating.

(Dr. Rittenhouse’s talk is open to the public. Admission is free to Aspetuck Land Trust members. A $5 donation is suggested for non-members.)

8 responses to “Bear Necessities

  1. David Stalling

    The name ‘Compo’ derived from the Paugusset word ’Compaug,’ meaning “the bear’s fishing ground.” It’s good to read of their recovery and return. Bears are intelligent, fascinating animals and make great neighbors when given the space and respect they need and deserve. Knowledge and understand is the first step in learning to live with them. I’m glad educational efforts are underway.

  2. Remember the forest on Cross Highway we call Jansen Woods? I think it went all the way down to the Saugatuck River and there are remnants seen from Panhandle and Red Coat Road. My guess is that it was a replant from the original clearing a few hundred years ago? And is it true that there is a virgin forest in NYC?

  3. An ant biologist? They fascinate me! I heard that all of the ants in the world weigh more than all the people in the world!

  4. David Stalling

    I just took a closer look at the photo; it’s
    Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse and three black bears!

  5. Please explain the photograph. The image is confusing, as to whether the bear is dead or alive.

    • David Stalling

      Bears are sometimes tranquilized to gather data regarding bear biology, behavior and use of habitat to help wildlife officials better manage the bears and the habitat that sustains them.