Late last month, a husband and wife in West Hartland, Connecticut, filed a lawsuit alleging that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) outfitted a bear with a camera so that the bruin could gather footage on their 114-acre property. Mark and Carol Brault say the “camera-carrying bear” is violating their constitutional rights to unlawful search and seizure guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Their lawsuit includes an injunction to get the photographic evidence removed and destroyed.
The lawsuit, filed in a federal district court on May 31, 2023, alleges that DEEP officials put a camera on a bear that’s known to frequent the Brault property. “On an unknown date prior to May 20, 2023, but subsequent to January 1, 2023, the defendant (DEEP) affixed a collar to Bear Number 119 which contained a camera,” the complaint reads. “The defendant thereupon released the…bear in the vicinity of plaintiffs’ property.”
Mark Brault has run afoul of Hartland’s bear-related regulations before. In 2020, the town sued him for allegedly feeding bears in violation of local ordinances. According to Connecticut Insider, Brault is part-owner of a company called Nature Havens, which offers paying customers a chance to view bears and other wildlife species during visits to the Gault property.
That lawsuit stemmed from several public hearings held back in 2020 when Heartland residents accused Brault and others of deliberately feeding bears in an attempt to attract them to his large parcel of forested land. Brault publicly denied those accusations. “It is unfortunate that this issue is being motivated by a few neighbors of Nature Havens, who don’t understand the facts,” he told FOX 61 at the time.
In a 2020 statement, DEEP officials told FOX 61 they were aware of Gault’s “apparent wildlife tourism business” but that they didn’t have “direct jurisdiction” over his property. The state agency has not yet responded to Field & Stream‘s request for comment on the more recent lawsuit.
By most estimates, the Constitution State is home to more than 1,000 bears. In 2022, bear-human interactions soared to new heights—more than doubling the number of incidents recorded in 2021. In response to the severe uptick in bear break-ins and other conflicts, legislators proposed the state’s first-ever black bear hunting season in March 2023. That measure enjoyed early support and an endorsement from the governor, but it was ultimately tabled by lawmakers who bowed to pressure from anti-hunting groups.