Off-Duty Police Officer Uses AR-15 to Stop Bear in Connecticut
On Thursday, May 12, off-duty police Sgt. Lawrence Clarke, 55 years old, had his property damaged, livestock killed, and his grandson threatened by an aggressive black bear that had become habituated to people. When the bear proved to be resistant and unafraid of people, he was forced to shoot the bear to protect lives and property.
AmmoLand has obtained a copy of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection report of the investigation of the incident.
On Friday, May 6, 2022, the Newtown police department received multiple nuisance wildlife concerning a black bear matching the description of a known problem bear. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) was called for assistance. The bear was said to be easily identifiable because of ear tags.
On Tuesday, May 10th, at about 0830, Clarke, a Sgt. in the Ridgefield Police Department, noticed one of his chickens on his back deck. He went to the front of the house and saw his chicken coop had been tipped over. He found he was missing three chickens. Within an hour, he saw a large black bear near the coop. He yelled and ran at the bear to chase it off. For the next four hours, the bear circled the south side of his property. While Clarke was repairing his chicken coop, the bear appeared about 15 feet away. Clarke retrieved a starter pistol and fired twice to scare off the bear. The bear was not deterred until he began yelling and walking toward it.
Clarke had his wife call DEEP and report the incident and that the bear had killed three of his chickens. DEEP told them to purchase an electric fence for the chicken coop. Clarke purchased a solar-powered electric fence that day for $300.
The solar fence instructions are that it takes three days to charge. Clarke did not set up the fence.
On Thursday, May 12, at about 0900, Clarke’s son and three-year-old grandson were in the front yard. Clarke’s son noticed the bear about 30 feet away. The bear and his grandson were staring at each other. The son ran, yelling at the bear, to the grandson and grabbed the grandson. The bear stomped the ground, and the son ran inside with the grandson. Clarke went outside and yelled at the bear. The bear ran into the woods. The bear kept returning to the chicken coop and pawing at it for the next hour. Clarke kept going outside and yelling at the bear, causing it to run into the woods.
The bear returned and was on its hind feet, attempting to pull over the chicken coop. Clark went outside with his Colt Match Target AR-15 type rifle.
He walked toward the bear while yelling. The bear slowly walked away. The bear was about 20 feet away and huffing and pounding the ground with its feet. It was on all fours and about 15 feet from the chicken coop. Clarke yelled at the bear again, and it took one step toward Clarke, and Clarke shot it in the head.
The bear fell to the ground and started convulsing. Clarke stepped up to the bear and fired six more shots to put it down and stop its suffering.
Because of the angle of the shots, Clarke had a good backstop of the earth and dense woods behind the bear. The nearest houses were over a hundred yards away, on the other side of the woods.
Clarke was 55 when he was forced to deal with the problem bear. The bear had been creating problems for several years. It was a large sow black bear weighing 208 lbs. Some people in the area had labeled the problem bear “Bobbi.” From newstimes.com:
By 2019, Bobbi “showed little to no fear of humans,” the report said. That was also the first time Bobbi was seen with cubs.
Between 2017 and 2021, there were 191 reported sightings of Bobbi, mostly in the Southbury, Redding and Newtown areas. The majority of the sightings involved Bobbi damaging bird feeders and chicken coops and killing numerous chickens, according to a report from DEEP.
The Ridgeway police put Sgt. Clarke on paid leave while the incident was investigated by DEEP. An investigation was conducted by the Ridgeway department as well as the DEEP.
Sgt. Clarke was cleared of any wrongdoing. A provision of the CT Fish and Game code allows for killing fur-bearing animals that are injuring any property. Bears are officially classified as fur-bearers. From Connecticut Fish and Game code:
No provision of this section shall be construed as prohibiting any landowner or lessee of land used for agricultural purposes or any citizen of the United States, or any person having on file in the court having jurisdiction thereof a written declaration of such person’s intention to become a citizen of the United States, who is regularly employed by such landowner or lessee, from pursuing, trapping and killing at any time any fur-bearing animal, except deer, which is injuring any property,
The law appears to be clear. Bears are legally fur-bearers in Connecticut. A bear that is causing damage may be pursued, trapped, and killed if it is causing damage on land used for agricultural purposes.
This correspondent is not a lawyer; however, I have spent time serving as a game warden in two states. Nearly all states allow farmers to kill animals that are doing agricultural damage. There is some exception for endangered species. Black bears are not endangered. Their numbers are growing. The laws vary from state to state. A Connecticut attorney, described as an animal rights advocate, claims there is no provision in Connecticut law to allow killing a bear to protect property or people. From greenwichtime.com:
Per Throckmorton’s interpretation, state laws make it illegal to “take” a bear in Connecticut, with no statutory exception for protecting yourself, livestock, or poultry against a bear.
The DEEP investigator had a different interpretation.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.