Conservation Police Conclude Investigation into Killing of Newtown Bear
On May 12, 2022,the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police and Newtown Police responded to a report of a homeowner that had shot a black bear. Following a comprehensive investigation, and coordination with the Newtown Police Department and the Geographical Area (GA) #3 State’s Attorney’s Office in Danbury, officers have concluded their investigation into the killing of the bear known by the DEEP Wildlife Division as bear #217. Based upon the facts of the investigation, the State’s Attorney’s Office has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the homeowner, Lawrence Clarke.
During the investigation, EnCon Police Officers interviewed the homeowner, Mr. Clarke, who reported the shooting of the bear to DEEP, as well as several other witnesses. The investigation determined that the homeowner had numerous encounters with the same bear over multiple days that caused him to fear for the safety of his family, for himself, and for his livestock.
In coordination with the Danbury State’s Attorney’s office, the Environmental Conservation Police reviewed the historical reports of bear #217. Since 2017, bear #217 was captured in Waterbury, tagged, and relocated on two separate occasions because it was showing signs of habituation. Following its relocation, it had over 175 documented human interactions, most occurring in the Southbury, Redding, and Newtown areas. Based on bear #217’s behavior and frequent interactions with humans it was considered a “habituated” and “food-conditioned” bear, meaning it had lost its fear of humans and hadlearned to associate humans with sources of food.
Bears are protected in Connecticut; there is no right to kill a bear. There is also no articulated right to defend yourself or livestock against bears. When a bear is killed, Environmental Conservation Police investigate. It is the State’s Attorney’s duty to determine if a chargeable criminal offense has occurred. The State’s Attorney’s Office only files charges if there is sufficient evidence for a specific charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
Due to the increase of human-bear conflicts and bears breaking into homes, further legislative clarity is needed to address bear-related incidents. For example, DEEP has proposed legislation for multiple years that, if passed, would ban the feeding of bears.
The habituation of bears is dangerous for both bears and people. Habituated bears that find a food “reward” such as a bird feeder, garbage can, or any other human-associated food quickly become food-conditioned and pose a greater risk to public safety and often cause damage to houses, cars, pets, and livestock. When bears associate people, pets, or livestock with sources of food, bear and human conflicts are more likely to increase. Please do your part to help keep both bears and people safe by never feeding bears, intentionally or unintentionally. For more information on living with black bears, and how to minimize the likelihood of a conflict with a bear, visit: The Basics of Living with Black Bears (ct.gov).