It's Illegal to Shoot Black Bears, Even in Your Yard

After an 82-year-old Windsor man was arrested for doing so earlier this week, Middletown recalls its own bear story from 2003.


A Connecticut man learned the hard way Wednesday that it’s illegal in Connecticut to shoot a black bear that wanders into your yard.

John G. Rocha, 82, of Windsor, was arrested by Environmental Conservation officers at his home when they were alerted by Windsor Police that a bear had allegedly been shot and killed on Rocha's property.

The bear, which weighed about 250 pounds and was between 5 and 6 years old, was allegedly shot by Rocha with a .30 caliber rifle after "apparently causing damage to Mr. Rocha's bird feeder" in a tree, officials with the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said Wednesday.

The bear was accompanied by a younger bear, described by DEEP officials as a 1-year-old weighing approximately 110 pounds, which was unharmed. The younger bear was tranquilized and relocated to a wooded area of the state by DEEP officials.

Rocha was charged by EnCon with negligent hunting, in addition to the charge of illegally killing a black bear.

Officer Gail Petras can't recall a similar incident taking place in the city. She's been in her position for eight year. "We have had bears in town but no negative incidents."

In June 2003, Middletown residents were shocked to see an 187-pound male black bear walking on Main Street at 1 a.m. then climb up a tree in front of the Community Health Center. A Department of Environmental Protection wildlife biologist tranquilized it and it was released in a nearby forest.

Remarkably enough, it was believed to have come from Portland, authorities at the time said, by ambling over the Arrigoni Bridge or by swimming across the Connecticut River.

Since then, Petras said, coyotes are more likely to be sighted in Middletown.

"The only animals that I have ever had someone ask if they can shoot is coyotes. It is legal to hunt or trap coyote but there are rules and guidelines that need to be followed," Petras said. "I advise people of ways to deter coyote from staying in their yards and try to talk them out of shooting them for obvious safety reasons. 

"I have never had anyone actually shoot anything," Petras said.

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said Wednesday that under state law it is illegal to shoot black bears, which is a protected species in Connecticut, unless it is acting in a threatening manner or poses a harm. He said residents who see bears in their yards or near their homes should call their local police.

According to DEEP, Rocha was "released on a promise to appear in Enfield Superior Court on January 17."

Officials did not say Wednesday whether Rocha has a permit for the rifle used to kill the bear.


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