GILFORD — State Fish and Game officials say the matter of a woman who crossed the road with a shotgun and shot a bear in her neighbor's yard last week was dealt with properly, though some bear preservation advocates said it was not legal.
Meanwhile, the head of the Fish and Game bear project says the incident was part of a trend in New Hampshire, as more people are buying chickens and chicken coops for their homes.
"Issues with bears and other predators attacking chickens are becoming much more common in recent years, as people seem to be buying more chickens and coops," said Fish and Game's Andrew Timmins.
"Chickens are seen by predators as a food source. But in these cases, bears are not representing a threat to the human population, and we hope people will take preventive measures, because this is not the way to handle our bear resources."
Fish and Game officials said Marie Karatsaros left her home at 231 Stark St. at about 8 p.m. on May 12 after she heard chickens squawking across the street.
Karatsaros said she grabbed her gun and went to her neighbor's home, where she found that a young bear had broken into a chicken coop. She shot the bear, wounding it, and it left. Town police had to find the bear and euthanize it later that night.
"I have to protect my neighbor, she couldn't stop a bear," Karatsaros said last week.
Under state law, "a person may pursue, wound or kill, on land owned or occupied by such person, any unprotected bird or wild animal which the person finds in the act of doing actual and substantial damage to poultry, crops, domestic animals, or the person's property."
Some bear preservation advocates in the state have complained since the incident that by law, Karatsaros should have been arrested because she was not on her own property.
"I understand the reference (to the law)," said Mark Ellingwood, Fish and Game's wildlife division chief.
"Our officers do the best they can in the field, and it is not our intent to empower people to kill bears (indiscriminately)," he said. "You do the best you can in the field, and we understood what happened, it's over, and we're moving on."
Bear advocates say the shooting is part of a trend, and they hope others will use preventive measures to avoid unnecessary killing of bears, especially young bears.
"We're not convinced that what happened in Gilford is 100 percent legal, but we're not trying to take anyone to task, we just want people to look at simple solutions," said Ellen Keith, a member of Black Brook Conservation Foundation, which has members all over the state, including many in Tamworth.
Timmins said the incident in Gilford was "unfortunate." People should prevent such intrusions with electric fences, which are highly effective in deterring bears.
People also need to be aware that in the spring some of the bears are cubs with a mother nearby, which could cause more problems, he said. In any case, if a landowner sees a bear causing problems, the landowner should call the local police, he said.