Editorial: The mystery and legacy of Bobbi the bear

Residents say that the bear fatally shot in Newtown Thursday was Bobbi. Bobbi’s whereabouts have been tracked through photos on a Facebook group followed by 1,800 people in the last five years.

Residents say that the bear fatally shot in Newtown Thursday was Bobbi. Bobbi’s whereabouts have been tracked through photos on a Facebook group followed by 1,800 people in the last five years.

Contributed photo

If you didn’t know it was against the law to shoot a bear in Connecticut, you probably do now.

And if there has ever been an appropriate time to review guidelines for sharing land with bears in our state, this is probably it.

The mystery of Bobbi the bear’s death after being shot in Newtown by an off-duty Ridgefield police officer has gained a broader audience in the absence of details.

It’s a fresh example of why transparency involving police is so important. While Ridgefield police acknowledge the officer is on leave while they conduct an internal investigation, they have not identified the shooter or released further information. Nor have Newtown Police and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. As a result, Hearst Connecticut Media filed Freedom of Information Act requests seeking the police report and recordings associated with the response to the incident.

Members of the public are trying to fill in details and offering theories via social media. It’s another reason officials should efficiently fill in blanks from the May 12 shooting. They haven’t even offered an explanation for the delay, leaning on the status of the investigation as active.

What we do know is that the bear was a mother of two 41/2-month-old cubs, who have since been captured and relocated to a wildlife rehabilitator in New Hampshire before they are returned to the wild. We also know the shooting was on a private property, though DEEP could not confirm if it was on the officer’s land.

There’s also the matter of what firearm was used and how many shots were fired. Was it the officer’s personal or work gun?

Killing a bear in Connecticut is illegal unless it is in self-defense or if the animal is deemed a threat. Bear sightings are common in woodsy Newtown, so much so that this tagged bear was named by neighbors who were accustomed to recognizing her by the ear tag bearing No. 217.

“The tragic and brutal killing of this mother black bear, leaving her orphaned cubs stranded, was preventable and unnecessary,” said Annie Hornish, Connecticut director of the Humane Society of the United States. “… these cubs will suffer this trauma for the rest of their lives.”

For people unfamiliar with bears, encounters can be traumatic as well. They don’t need to be. There are commonly recognized tips for keeping bears at a distance:

  Ensure trash, compost and recyclables are inaccessible, with airtight bins or inside.

  Put bird feeders in storage during the summer months, and keep them away from the house.

  Don’t feed bears.

  If you encounter a bear while hiking, making noise and waving arms will likely cause it to flee. Black bears are not known to attack humans.

  If you spot a bear in the neighborhood, leave it alone. The DEEP encourages the reporting of sightings.

More boilerplate advice may be informed by the investigation into the shooting. But first, we need more details.