By JEN CARDINES
Southington resident Bob Sherwill often receives visits from furry, backyard neighbors, but even he was surprised at his latest drop-in.
One morning about two weeks ago, Sherwill’s dogs were outside for a bathroom break, and he heard them barking loudly when they saw a large black bear stumbling into the area.
“My older dog Jessie (13-year-old yellow lab) turned around and headed for our house,” Sherwill said. “Our one-year-old German Shepherd, Bella, started barking loudly at the bear as it wandered toward her. The bear wasn’t scared or phased as it continued walking straight for Bella.”
Thanks to the dogs, Sherwill became aware of the visitor in his yard on Hearthstone Court, a wooded area off of Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike. He took a moment to peer out the window and snap some photographs. Because of his location, the bear was not the first animal Sherwill has encountered over the years.
“We see black bears, deer, coyote, fox and turkeys,” Sherwill said. “Day and night.”
Sherwill enjoys using a trail camera to capture photos of the animals as they wander through his yard. Samples from his 2015 pictures show a fox on Nov. 14, deer on Nov. 11, and a black bear on May 22. There were also coyotes.
While the animal sightings never harmed Sherwill, others can face problems with wandering wildlife. According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, black bears are becoming increasingly common in Connecticut as the population continues to grow and expand.
Residents can even report their bear sightings on the website, where sightings are listed by towns.
The report shows that 95 bear sightings were reported in Southington from April 18, 2016 to April 10, 2017. The highest report was 561 sightings in Avon and the statewide total was 6,442.
The DEEP website says that easily-accessible food sources near homes and businesses are the main reasons for bears coming close to homes. They warn that bears should never be fed, either intentionally or accidentally.
Southington Animal Control also posted advisories to their informational Facebook page. With bear and coyote sightings on the rise, officials warn residents to never feed animals or leave exposed food or open trash cans outside.
Residents should also be aware of the safety of their pets.
“In Connecticut, unsupervised pets, particularly outdoor cats and small dogs (less than 25 pounds) are vulnerable to coyote attacks,” one of the Animal Control posts said.
Animal Control Officer (ACO) Josh Karabin said he receives calls every day regarding wildlife. “We seem to have a healthy population of all of them,” he said.
While the ACOs appreciate reports, it is not necessary to call if a healthy looking animal is seen passing through without harm to anyone. However, if they look sickly or appear frequently where it causes a nuisance, an ACO can come and evaluate the property.
“In residential areas, the most common place we find wildlife is under sheds,” Karabin said. “I encourage people to do some ‘animal proofing’ to keep the animals out.”
Animal Control can be reached at (860) 628-8053.