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Relocated for the second time, Hanover bear is on the move again

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 09. 2018 10:54PM
This photo was taken from an online petition to save a family of bears that had become a safety concern in Hanover last year. The pesky mother bear returned to town with four new cubs this spring. After being relocated once more, this time without her cubs, she could be headed back again. 

A litter of black bear cubs removed from their mother late last month play together Monday at the Kilham Bear Center, where they will spend another year until they reach the natural age to go out on their own. The bears mother, who had a history of encounters with humans while foraging in Hanover, was relocated to the wild June 29 with a tracking collar that allows wildlife experts to keep tabs on her. (Photo courtesy of Ben Kilham)

HANOVER — A mother bear with a history of close encounters with humans is on the move again, less than two weeks after being relocated and separated from her four cubs.

Wildlife experts are keeping an eye on the sow’s movements through a tracking collar, hoping she doesn’t return to the Hanover area where she has demonstrated a knack for scrounging up food in residential areas.

“She hasn’t settled down at all since we let her go,” said Andrew Timmins, bear biologist for the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game.

Timmins said the bear was relocated to a spot in Coos County on June 29. He said Monday that she has logged about 70 to 80 miles in multiple directions, making it difficult to say whether she’s attempting to return to her territory in the Mink Brook area east of Hanover.

“When you remove an animal out of its home range, that’s the tendency — to want to get back,” Timmins said. “But there’s really no predicting where she’ll ultimately end up.”

Dubbed “Mink,” the bear has become a bit of a celebrity since she and a litter of yearlings had a series of run-ins with humans in May 2017 that nearly got her euthanized.

Two of the youngsters broke into a home in search of food. Initially, the family was considered too domesticated and would be at risk living in the wild.

The bears received a late reprieve from Gov. Chris Sununu, who ordered the young bears be released rather than euthanized. The mother, however, evaded capture and resurfaced this spring with four new cubs in the Hanover area.

Timmins is getting regular updates on Mink’s whereabouts from the Kilham Bear Center, which set her up with a GPS monitoring collar in April after she resurfaced with the new litter of cubs.

Ben Kilham, a black bear specialist and founder of the bear sanctuary in Lyme, is caring for the cubs, who will remain at the sanctuary until June 2019 when they reach the natural age to break away from their mother. The family was separated because the six-month-old cubs would be doomed if all five were relocated and something happened to the mother, wildlife officials said.

“They’re doing very well,” Kilham said of the cubs. “It took them a few days to acclimate to the other cubs in the pen, but they’re doing well and feeding well now.”

Mink’s celebrity status did raise awareness throughout the state about limiting access to potential food sources such as garbage cans and bird feeders.

“That’s been the positive thing from all the reporting on this bear,” Kilham said. “We’ve been able to get the message out there over and over again.”

It has also brought some attention to the Kilham Bear Center, which is awaiting approval from the IRS on its status as a 501c3 non-profit. Kilham said it costs up to $3,500 to rehabilitate a cub and prepare it for life in the wild.

He said the center relies on donations, which are needed to secure its future and continued mission of providing a safe haven for cubs and helping humans and bears coexist.

“The hope is that we can create something that can go into the future,” Kilham said.

For more information:

Tax-deductible donations can be made to Bear Hill Conservancy Trust c/o Ben Kilham PO Box 37 Lyme, NH 03768.

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