The killing of two black bears in Wilton last Saturday has prompted an outcry among residents who are outraged about the poaching allegedly committed by bow hunter Antonio Lio. It’s been the subject of conversation for many around town, and social media pages have been filled with posts of people sharing their feelings about events that have now gotten attention in national media like the Los Angeles TimesOur story breaking the news about Lio’s arrest is already among GOOD Morning Wilton‘s top 5 most-read articles we’ve published since we launched.

Among those outraged by the deaths is Marguerite O’Connor, who was moved to begin planning a protest for Sept. 28 outside the Norwalk courthouse where Lio and the other man arrested in connection with the event, Daniel Moran of Norwalk, will make their first appearance in front of a judge. O’Connor told GMW that she was “absolutely devastated about the bear murders.”

Shortly after news broke about the events, she began working to plan a protest, reaching out to the animal rights activist group PETA for guidance, and finding out how to obtain a permit for a group to assemble outside the courthouse and ‘peacefully’ demonstrate with signs.

“I would love the judge to understand how this heinous attack affected the community of Wilton,” she says.

It’s the first time she has been motivated to take action on an issue in such a way. But as someone who spent several weeks this summer on her second trip to Alaska for bear spotting, and who has taken other similar trips around the country O’Connor felt this hit too close to her heart.

“I’ve never done anything like this before–ever! But what kind of bear ‘enthusiast’ would I be if I just sat back?” she says.

Her feelings have been echoed across Facebook in the last three days, as her Wilton neighbors have expressed their emotional response, with many saying they’ll join together outside the courthouse on the day of the hearing. O’Connor has been in contact with the Norwalk mayor’s office to expedite the permitting process.

Wilton’s public officials have also spoken out about the bear killings.

First selectman Lynne Vanderslice issued a statement shortly after news broke of the arrests:

“All of us in town government share the public’s outrage and concern about the poaching of two bears within Wilton. Bears are protected in Connecticut. There is not a bear hunting season. Environmental affairs director, Mike Conklin, will keep in contact with DEEP on this matter.

“The two individuals are poachers, not hunters. They are not participants in the Town’s annual controlled deer hunt, which began on Friday, Sept. 15. Invited hunters are well experienced, safety oriented and have completed, at a minimum, all the appropriate State certifications courses and passed a CT background check performed by WPD. The hunt is held for numerous reasons, including to reduce the spread of Lyme Disease and its crippling effects, to reduce motor vehicle accidents and to protect the ecology of the area.”

Gail Lavielle, Wilton’s state representative, posted a statement on Facebook. “The senseless killing of two bears in Wilton over the weekend is extremely disturbing. As our First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice said, there is no bear-hunting season in Connecticut. The act was cruel, it was illegal, and it constituted poaching. Acts like this must not be tolerated.” She is reportedly considering steps to research potential legislation that would increase fines and penalties on poachers.