Bear sightings in Connecticut on the rise

If a bear attacks you, fight back. 

"Do not play dead," Stamford Managing Animal Control Officer Tilford Cobb said. "You want to fight that bear."

Opening this story with bear-fighting is maybe not the most responsible storytelling. After all, Cobb introduces his living-alongside-bears spiel not with human-on-bear combat techniques but rather with a reminder of our many centuries of mostly peaceful cohabitation.

"They've been here a long time and we don't hear of bear attacks on the regular," Cobb said.

But Cobb can confirm 2020 and 2021 have produced more black bear sightings in the Stamford area than any other period he can remember in his two-plus decades on the job.

"Recently, there has been a lot more," he said.

As of mid-July, Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) had received more than 5,000 reports of black bear sightings in the state in 2021, with 15 of those in the more densely populated Stamford area.

"Most of the time they're just passing through," Cobb said. "They're transient bears who are leaving their moms for the first time and they're out and they're looking for their own homes."

But in examining some of the reports of sightings a little closer, Cobb found the same bear popping up over and over again — so frequently that Bear 211 now has its own Facebook group.

"This bear has been up and down Connecticut," Cobb said.

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To dissuade Bear 211 or one of its brethren (bearthren?) from visiting one's home, Cobb encouraged homeowners to spray trash cans with household ammonia and keep them indoors until trash day. 

"You need to remove your bird feeders," he said. "Bird feeders are an attractant to bears."

Cobb also strongly advised keeping dogs on leash when walking in the woods (which in Stamford the law also requires).

"If your dog runs into a coyote or a bear," Cobb said, "that bear may chase your dog back to you." And if that bear does come toward you and keeps coming toward you even as you make yourself appear larger, waving your shirt over your head as you slowly back away, Cobb recommended carrying an air horn one could blast to scare that bear off and prevent you from having to engage in hand-to-paw, human-on-bear combat.

"If a bear does chase you, you do not want to run from that bear," Cobb said. "You do not want to climb a tree. A bear climbs a lot better than we do."

Cobb encouraged those seeing bears to report any encounters to the DEEP. In the rare event of a bear attack, one should call 911.

Stamford Animal Control and Care | 203-977-4437 |

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection | 860-424-3000 |