The arrest of two men in connection with the poaching of two bears in Wilton have “woken the bear” that is animal activism among some town residents. Eleanor Sasso, Jill Alibrandi and Marguerite O’Connor are coordinating efforts to plan what they say will be a peaceful protest outside the Norwalk Superior Courthouse this Thursday, Sept. 28, when the alleged poachers are scheduled to appear at a hearing in front of a judge. Cases start to get heard at 10 a.m., and organizers suggest people who want to join the protest arrive by 9:30 a.m..

According to Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) officials, two men–Antonio Lio of Wilton and Daniel Moran of Norwalk–were arrested on Saturday, Sept. 16, when they were found walking out of woods on private property carrying bear skin and the severed head and paws of at least one of the bears. They were arrested by DEEP officers, who say they received an anonymous tip that Lio was bow-hunting and had illegally shot and killed the two bears. Lio was charged with fourth degree negligent hunting and illegal taking of black bear; he was released on a $5,000 non surety bond. Moran was charged with conspiracy to commit illegal taking of black bear; he was released on a $3,000 non surety bond.

Sasso, Alibrandi and O’Connor connected on Facebook as commenters on posts about the killings. The three women have been motivated to organize the dozens of others residents who have communicated to them via Facebook posts and online and share their anger about the bears’ deaths.

They’ve turned to the Humane Society of the United States (CT Division) for guidance and advice, and have begun communicating what their goals are and what they hope the protest will achieve. Sasso says they hope the protest has an impact both on the outcome of this particular case as well as on town hunting regulations and on state policy regarding bears in CT.

“The courts tend to give them a slap on the wrist and send them on their way, maybe with a small fine. Our message is to give them a penalty fitting the crime. Another message is to keep the current ruling of no bear hunting in CT. There have been strong forces trying to overturn this ruling and they will persist,” Sasso wrote in an email to GOOD Morning Wilton.

They say they hope the court will impose a more substantial fine than usual for killing a bear–$10,000–as well as jail time and community service. They also want to reinforce the message to keep the current law prohibiting bear hunting in CT, which they say is a target for elimination. Locally, the women say the poaching and subsequent attention it’s received have opened up questions about current town hunting laws–”…in particular, hunting on private property (without notice to bordering homeowners) and the potential danger that this brings to our children and our pets,” writes Sasso.

O’Connor says she has printed signs with slogans like, “No trophy hunting of bears!” and “Protect our bears!” They’ll have some signs on hand for those who want to join their effort, and encourage people to make their own ahead of time.

Sasso says that she’s logged more than 100 positive responses to posts she wrote about the killings on Wilton 411 and 412. They hope that means significant numbers of other residents will join them on Thursday. They suggest that people try to park in the mall indoor parking garage (also on Belden Ave.) to avoid overloading the courthouse parking lot. They’ll have signage to give out, and ask that anyone taking part in the protest remain respectful and peaceful.