AVON, Conn. (WTNH) — Avon residents packed a meeting Thursday evening to discuss concerns about more frequent bear sightings in neighborhoods.

“I was staining my deck and I was on the grass portion of my lawn doing the last step,” John Tinnirella said. “I turned around and there was a bear eight feet away from me.”

The area has one of the highest rates of human-bear interactions in the state.

Residents told story after story of their own encounters.

“I was backing out of my parking space, and I see this massive bear in my dumpster having a good old time,” Ron Cataldi said.

Marilyn Kaufman said that she looks both ways, has a bear bell and brings an air horn and a whistle when she goes out.

One man had two bears break into his house at the same time. One went through the window, another through his back door.

Two weeks ago, a 74-year-old woman was bitten while walking her dog.

Now, they’re turning to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to learn how to protect themselves.

“Once bears become habituated and food conditioned, it’s extremely difficult to reverse that process, and that is why we are really pushing the message to avoid allowing bears to access human foods,” said Jason Hawley, a wildlife biologist with DEEP.

DEEP recommends eliminating anything a bear could eat or smell from your property. If you see one, put down the camera and make noise to scare them off. While bear-proof trash cans are on the market, DEEP said that everyone in a neighborhood must have them to be effective. Even one loose lid can send bears roaming around homes.

While lawmakers have proposed legislation surrounding bears, Rep. Elani Kavros DeGraw (D-District 17) said it doesn’t address reducing the bear population.

“There is legislation and the hunting provision was stripped out, and I know DEEP is certainly happy that we are at least starting to find the bears, and also looking for hunters to be able to protect their crops,” she said.