KENT, Conn. (AP) — An attack by a black bear that killed and ate a donkey is part of a growing problem linked to an expanding bear population in Connecticut, state wildlife officials said.
Megg and Ted Hoffman told The News-Times of Danbury that the bear visited their Kent property on at least two other occasions last month before breaking into a paddock containing four donkeys on May 21. On that day, it killed a 15-year-old donkey named Radar, after the character from the TV show "M(asterisk)A(asterisk)S(asterisk)H." Two other donkeys were injured.
"I come down to feed them in the morning," Megg Hoffman said. "And there was the body."
The donkey's torso was full of puncture wounds and half of his hindquarters were eaten. Black bear footprints were left in the mud, near pools of blood.
Paul Rego, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, said the department set a trap for the bear, but has since removed it.
Rego said attacks by bears on pets and livestock have been rising along with the state's bear population.
"In recent memory, this is the first donkey," he said. "But other livestock has been attacked: goats, sheep, llama and smaller animals like chickens and other fowl."
A resident population of bears was first confirmed in the state in the late 1980s and has grown to more than 700 animals, Rego said. Many have grown accustomed to suburban life and are not afraid of people, he said.
Rego said homeowners wishing to avoid bears need to eliminate food attractions, such as bird feeders and poorly stored garbage.
He said the department has also suggested the legislature consider allowing a regulated hunt to keep the population under control. A bill that would have allowed some bear hunting in Connecticut failed in the legislature this session.
Rego said bears that are caught in residential areas are released into less populated areas after being put through a hazing designed to make them afraid of people. He said that includes prodding them with poles, using loud noises and then shooting them with paint guns or rubber buckshot as they are released into the woods.