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North Canaan considers ordinance banning the feeding of black bears

NORTH CANAAN — The ill-advised impulse of local residents to attract and feed black bears led the Board of Selectmen to vote approval for an ordinance to control the behavior at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

The selectmen’s unanimous action will move the proposed ordinance on to a town meeting to be scheduled by the selectmen at a future meeting.

Incidents of a number of close encounters between humans and bears, particularly in the vicinity of North Canaan Elementary School and Town Hall, were of immediate concern.

Town residents have been observed to be actively attracting and feeding bears, leading to the need for an ordinance prohibiting the behavior.

“It’s something we need to do,” said First Selectman Charles Perotti, noting that the animal control officer will be in charge of enforcement.

“We need to do it before someone gets hurt, particularly where children are present,” agreed Selectman Craig Whiting.

The newly proposed ordinance is modeled after one created by the town of Salisbury recognizing that wild animals should be left alone for the safety and welfare of both animals and humans.

In 2019, Falls Village adopted a similar ordinance prohibiting feeding of bears.

If adopted by residents at a town meeting, the ordinance would prohibit intentional scattering of food on a property or improperly storing edible materials such as pet food, birdseed or garbage, in a way that could attract bears, an action called “baiting.” Bears easily become habituated to finding food in a location and will train their cubs to follow suit, increasing risk to humans.

The town would first issue a written warning, but if unheeded, a fine of $100 would be imposed, increasing incrementally with each occurrence.

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