Bear feeding the issue at BOS meeting

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We are free! Mask-free! Not 100 percent of the time, but today, as I write this, is the first time in 15 months that I can legally and ethically go mask-less both outdoors and indoors —imagine! Still, there are those among us who have yet to be inoculated or have underlying conditions that place them at higher risk, so I will do my utmost to stay aware, cautious and respectful. That is the role of a good neighbor and community member, right? Let’s all try to do the same, and maintain our public safety via cooperation and respect, on all fronts. Including wildlife — read on.

Granby Bears are a continuing hazard. Not our local sports teams, but the actual four-legged black bears. Granby has suffered at least one reported bear versus dog incident this spring, despite a 5-foot tall chain link fence around the property. Murphy, the dog, suffered grievous injuries, has undergone multiple surgeries and is hopefully recovering. But that event has triggered a renewed awareness of the safety hazards we all face living so close to nature. What can we do to reduce risk? That has been discussed at length by our public officials and residents at several recent meetings.

Stop intentional feeding and bear habituation. That is the strong message from DEEP and other experts. It seems common sense. For example, we all know the message from park rangers is “Don’t feed the wildlife” when we visit a park. However, there is factual tracking data the DEEP has collected locally that confirms there are cases in Granby where residents intentionally feed bears, causing them to change their habits and behaviors and putting those bears, and us, at risk of injury. That has to stop, say both town officials and residents, but how do you stop people who persist in this action? Education? Identification of violators? Discussions with violators? More laws? Fines? Lawsuits? Does that work?

Is a new anti-feeding ordinance the answer? Simsbury and Hartland have passed intentional feeding legislation recently, but so recently that the legislation itself has not been proven to work, or to not work. The one example of actually changing this behavior was based on enforcing a zoning regulation in court, not a feeding ordinance. The Board of Selectmen (BOS) discussed how they could actually change the behavior of these few residents, and if Granby is committed to take the expensive legal actions against its own residents in the interest of the greater public safety. If so, could it be done under existing laws—breach of peace, blight or zoning—or does it require new laws? More to come as town officials continue to seek solutions that will actually address the issues.

What about non-intentional feeding?  There are other human-supplied sources of food for bears, such as bird feeders or trash containers. The owners may not intend to draw the bears, but they come nonetheless. Murphy’s owners had a bird feeder, and have since learned that it’s best to take bird feeders down in March, and not put them back up until December. Providing bird feed that is not desirable to bears, such as nyjer or thistle seeds, reduces the attraction and should be used by everyone. Bear-resistant trash containers have been offered and sold out by DPW. They are pricey but also help—and the town will be looking into obtaining more. If you want a bear-resistant trash bin, please call DPW at 860-653-8960 and reserve your place on the wait list.

Other summer-time issues to watch. The BOS is seeking a new town manager, using a process initially developed in the 2017 search, and hopes to hire over the summer. Kearns is still on the market, with at least one potential buyer recently expressing interest. Bridge and road work will be starting on Hungary and Griffin roads. Bridge preparation could cause minor delays. Watch for drainage work and raising of catch basins in preparation for road overlays on Barn Door Hills Rd, Bushy Hill Rd, Canton Street Extension, Case Street and Edgerton Rd.

Be safe and well, get outside and enjoy summer in Granby. Just be aware of the black tar and the black bears.

—Jim Lofink