I am writing in support of any ordinance that would allow the town to regulate the feeding of wildlife on private property. The town of Granby, as well as surrounding towns, continues to struggle with wildlife being habituated through the bear-feeding practices of private homeowners. This habituation is leading to a large increase in daily encounters, a lack of hesitance or fear on the part of the animals and is going to lead to a severe and perhaps life-threatening encounter. Just recently, a dog was mauled by a bear in town. It is my deep concern that this event will repeat itself, with dire consequences.
The bear population appears to be expanding and poor behavior by some of our neighbors is exacerbating the issue. We often see five to six bears crossing our yard on any given day. The woods and meadow behind our home are littered with garbage due to bear feeding by our neighbors. As a result, we are unable to make use of our own property.
While bears are part of the natural environment that makes Granby a wonderful place to live, actively attracting those animals into residential areas creates danger to the bears, to our residents, to our agriculture, and to the reputation of the town. The solution to this issue may not be simple, but the beginning is to ban wildlife feeding in town, and to fine those irresponsible enough to do so.
Bears frequent our property and that of our neighbors far more intensively than would be expected for animals with a wide range, especially given the hundreds of undeveloped acres behind our own. This frequency of bear sightings can only be attributed to our neighbors on Mountain Road feeding the bears every day. Evidence of this feeding is rampant on our property, with seed bags, and black bowls dragged through the woods by the bears. The bear scat, which is entirely too common on our property, is full of sunflower seeds, showing that the bears are eating enormous amounts of a food not found in their environment. These animals frequenting our property makes it difficult to let our dog out, and impossible to let the kids enjoy their yard.
Beyond our personal concerns, the feeding of bears in our area creates significant risks to the town. The neighbors feeding the bears are also neighbors of the Mary Edwards Granby Land Trust. It is only a couple hundred feet from where the bears are being acclimated and fed by people to the trails frequented by many families in town—likely without protection from a bear looking for a handout.
While we are all aware that bear attacks are uncommon, it is also clear that they are more likely when bears are acclimatized to people. This risk was tragically demonstrated recently when the pet of one of our neighbors was mauled and nearly killed by a bear last week The dog is still in and out of the hospital at this time.
This irresponsible feeding is not only dangerous to residents and visitors to Granby, but it is also dangerous to the bears themselves. There have been accidents, and many near misses, with bears being struck by cars while trying to cross the road. Encouraging bears to enter neighborhoods only increases their interactions with traffic.
Banning wildlife feeding is a simple way to begin managing some of the danger created by acclimatizing bears to humans. Wildlife and bear feeding ordinances are common in the Northeast. Several states, including New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island levy significant fines – up to $1,000, to individuals who feed bears (cga.ct.gov/2012/rpt/2012-R-0351.htm). Several surrounding towns including Simsbury, Hartland and Barkhamsted already have or are discussing wildlife feeding ordinances as well.
Reining in this irresponsible behavior is essential to keep our residents, visitors and bears safe. We look forward to seeing action taken.