×

Bear Mother and Cubs Living in Hanover Will Be Caught, Euthanized

  • Police believe three cubs and a sow seen on April 28, 2017, in Hanover, N.H., are the same family of bears getting into a Thompson Terrace home in Hanover. (Mark Laidre photograph)



Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

UPDATE:

N.H. Wildlife Officials’ Plans to Euthanize Family of Bears Near Dartmouth College Faces Backlash

Hanover — The New Hampshire state bear biologist said on Tuesday he sees no other option but to capture and euthanize four bears — a sow and three yearlings — that have been roaming neighborhoods south of the Dartmouth green in search of food. In the most recent incident, two of the bears got inside a home.

“We are going to capture them, and when we do, they will have to be destroyed,” said Andrew Timmins, the bear project leader with the Department of Fish and Game. “It is not our preference. We sense some in town won’t approve, and it is our least preferred option.”

Timmins said the bears have become thoroughly “habituated,” meaning they do not fear humans.

“When their behavior reaches a certain point, it is tough to be wild bears again,” Timmins said. “As the state’s bear biologist, I don’t think it would be prudent to move them to another area.”

Terrence Welch said he was walking along a trail in Mink Brook Nature Preserve on Saturday evening and as he approached his home on Thompson Terrace he saw two of the yearlings come out of a sliding screen door onto the deck.

“They didn’t scatter,” Welch said, adding they were not in the house long and did not do any damage. “In fact, one walked toward me. They are not really scared of anyone.”

Welch said his wife, Marnie, their four children ages 3 to 9, a friend and two other children had seen the sow out front and retreated inside for safety.

About the same time he spotted the yearlings, Welch said, he called his wife to tell her of bears in house. He believes the noise of everyone coming inside at the other end of the house is what made the yearlings leave.

But apparently they weren’t done. Once his family was in the house and closed the doors, Welch said, one of the yearlings tried to push the door open again.

Eventually, the bears reunited in front of the house and slowly meandered toward Brook Road.

Police arrived soon after and fired blanks or sounded their sirens to scare the bears off.

Welch, whose family does not compost or have bird feeders and keeps their trash inside the garage, said that in living next to the nature preserve, they expect to see wildlife, but not inside their home, which was a little “frightening” for his children.

Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis said his department has fielded numerous calls the last several months about bear problems and that the town has taken steps to try to encourage the bears to change their habitat.

“They have not been too successful,” Dennis said.

Thompson Terrace resident Amy Peters, who lives at the entrance of the dead-end road, said she saw what seemed to be the same bear family in the neighborhood last fall, and recently off and on this year since April.

She works hard to avoid attracting the bears, she said, but nevertheless saw them climbing on her porch.

These are the boldest bears Peters has seen in more than 20 years of living there, she said, attributing their audacity to the fact that the bear family is bigger than usual, with four hungry mouths to feed.

“I’ve not seen this,” Peters said.

At the park across the street, Melanie Isett, 36, watched her 4-year-old daughter climb the jungle gym while rocking her 6-month-old in a car seat on a picnic table.

Isett, who lives in Lyme Center, said she is not fazed by the recent reports of bears in Hanover, although she has heard about the apparent uptick in the bears’ encounters with people. It’s not unusual to see bears around her property, she said, but her family has not seen any this year.

“It doesn’t scare me knowing that they’re around. ... They don’t really want to interact with you anyway,” Isett said. “If you respect their space, they’ll respect yours.”

But these four bears are different said Timmins and Hanover Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hinsley.

“They are not afraid. They don’t run away,” Hinsley said. “You are not going to save these bears. When you break into a house with four kids, you are done.”

Hinsley said the bears go on porches, force through doors and sit in chairs around fire pits.

The town has used harassing tactics, such as loud cap guns and shooting the bears with paintballs, in hopes of to scare them away, but to no avail.

“These bears have no interest in going anywhere,” Hinsley said.

The bears are believed to be the same ones that in late April dislodged the screen to a kitchen door and tipped over a garbage can at two different homes on School Street and also injured a dog at a residence on Ripley Road last November.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said the community has sort of a “love/hate” relationship with the bears, seeing them as “adorable” and wanting to take care of them but adding that they have become a pain in the neck for the town.

“They don’t feel threatened,” Griffin said. “Their natural food source is not out yet so they are getting bolder looking for human food.”

Timmins and Hinsley both blamed much of the problem on residents failing to take in their bird feeders by April 1 and not properly securing their garbage.

Additionally, many residences in town do not have secure trash receptacles.

Hinsley said he has spent months going door to door trying to educate people about how to keep bears away, and in some neighborhoods, those efforts have proved successful.

A residential area around Maple Street — from west of South Main Street to the Connecticut River — is one example.

“Why are there no bears there, because they have good control of their garbage and bird feeders,” Hinsley said. “They police themselves.”

Last summer, that is where the bears were, but since that area has been cleaned up, the animals have moved to other areas that are not as bear-proof, Timmins said.

When residents become educated about how to keep bears away — particularly the potential problems caused by bird feeders in the spring — they comply with the recommendations, Hinsley said.

Timmins would like to see Hanover take steps to avoid a similar situation by perhaps adopting wildlife ordinances.

“When properly enforced, they can be effective,” Timmins said. “We hope Hanover will consider it so four years from now we are not doing this again. It really is not how we want to manage the bear population.”

Hinsely knows many residents in a town that has created protected areas for wildlife won’t be pleased with the decision by Fish and Game to destroy the animals.

“It is so contrary to what the town has been doing for decades,” Hinsely said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.

Valley News staff writer Maggie Cassidy contributed to this report.