HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A bill that would make it legal to kill a black bear in self defense sailed through the Connecticut Senate on Thursday.

“I think the biggest aspect of this is that it is a public safety bill,” Sen. Stephen Harding (R-District 30) said.

The proposal does not legalize a bear hunt, and sets out guidelines requiring a bear to come after an individual, their family and their property before the animal can be shot.

“If you reasonably believe yourself or your family members, or your pets are in danger, it makes it very clear that you can protect yourself in those very small situations where you may see that,” Harding said.

The bill passed 31-3.

Sen. Christine Cohen (D-District 12) voted against it.

“The problem with this bill is I worry a little bit about opening up a loophole for people to go out hunting, hiking with a gun…saying they just happen to be on a hike and encountered a black bear,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-District 25), expression caution.

“We don’t want a scenario where it’s the wild West out there, where people are taking their sidearm and shooting bears, and putting people in danger, and other animals,” Duff said. “So, he felt this was a good compromise.”

Cohen, the former chair of the environment committee, believes there’s better opportunities.

“There are things like rubber bullets and bear dogs, believe it or not, that scare off bears and get them to sort of retreat,” she said.

The bill also makes it illegal to feed bears. Violations can come with a $35-$90 fine. Birdfeeders are still allowed.

“We obviously want individuals to be smart about where they placed the birdfeeders, to make sure to not entice bears onto the property,” Harding said.

Bruce Corbett, who lives in the heart of bear country in Avon, has learned how to keep bears and birds separate.

“Right now, I have birdfeeders because I love birds, and I have them on the pulley system,” he said. “I can put the pulley up and down when I need to feed them, and I just have to remember to pull it up at night.”

The bill now moves to the House for approval.

The video below aired in our 8 p.m. newscast on May 18, 2023.