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Relocated Bear Trying to Find Home

  • Andrew Timmins, bear project leader with the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, fits a tranquilized black bear with a radio collar in Hanover, N.H., on April 13, 2018. Working with him is Nancy Comeau with USDA wildlife services. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, July 07, 2018

Hanover — The Hanover sow that officials relocated to northern New Hampshire a week ago has traveled close to 70 miles in seven days as she frantically tries to find her way back to her home turf and her cubs, who were transported to a rehabilitation center in Lyme.

Andrew Timmins, the bear project leader with the Department of Fish and Game, said he is not surprised by the sow’s movement and has mixed feelings about local, state and federal officials’ decision last Friday to relocate the habituated sow.

“She hasn’t settled down at all,” Timmins said in an interview on Friday. “It is difficult to watch. I am really feeling bad for that bear.”

Officials have been tracking the sow’s whereabouts since April, when they tranquilized her and put on a tracking collar to trace her movements as she sought food for herself and her four cubs near downtown Hanover.

In hindsight, Timmins said, the best decision would have been to either put her down or to leave her where she was — in the Mink Brook corridor — with her cubs.

Officials had hoped to crack down on the number of food attractants in Hanover, in hopes that she wouldn’t teach her cubs her ways, but that didn’t happen, forcing officials to come up with an alternative option for the bear family.

Her cubs were transported to Lyme bear expert Ben Kilham, a decision Timmins feels was the right one. They will stay there until June, when they are old enough to be released.

“People think that relocating a bear is a good thing,” Kilham said. “The best thing would have been for 100 percent of Hanover to clean up (its) acts.”

Nevertheless, Timmins said he wished the state had followed through with experts’ original decision in May 2017 to destroy the sow and her prior litter of yearlings.

She and her yearlings were so habituated that two of the yearlings broke into a home on Thompson Terrace in search of food that month, so bear officials concluded that they needed to be put down.

Doing so could have saved the sow a lot of trauma, Timmins said.

But Gov. Chris Sununu intervened, following a public outcry about destroying the bears.

The state Fish and Game Department reversed course, capturing the yearlings and relocating them.

The sow, however, never was caught before she went off, bred and gave birth to her latest litter of cubs in January or February.

Right now, the sow is very vulnerable as she is crossing many roadways, Timmins said.

“I don’t think we have gained much by dragging this out another year,” Timmins said on Friday. “I don’t think this is going to have the Disney ending a lot of people think it is going to.”

Sununu’s spokesman, Benjamin Vihstadt, didn’t return requests for comment.

Timmins declined to say exactly where the sow, nicknamed Mink, is now, but he said she has covered enough ground to nearly make it home to Hanover, if she had her bearings straight. She was released in northern Coos County.

Local, state and federal officials considered several relocation options prior to making their decision last week, but one option that was off the table was relocating her with her cubs, Timmins said. If the sow was hit and killed, the cubs wouldn’t have survived on their own, he said.

Although it took them a couple of days, the cubs are settling in well, Kilham said on Friday.

Hanover Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hinsley, who had been watching the bear family around the clock for several months, dropped the final cub off at Kilham Bear Center after its capture last Saturday.

There, the four cubs, who were caught at different times, were reunited after a brief stint apart.

“It was pretty amazing to watch actual bears give actual bear hugs,” Hinsley said of the cubs’ embrace inside an enclosure at Kilham’s.

The sow is moving so fast that she hasn’t caused any conflict, Timmins said.

The Fish and Game Department hasn’t received any phone calls about her.

The hope is that Mink settles down soon and lives a conflict-free life deep in the woods, Timmins said.

Hanover may not be out of the woods in regards to bear-human conflict, though. Another sow could settle in and take over Mink’s territory, and if that happens, residents could have a bear with far worse behavior on their hands, Timmins said.

Within 24 hours of relocating the sow, Hinsley said, there were three bear sightings in downtown Hanover.

“I hope people aren’t celebrating her removal by putting their bird feeders back out,” Timmins said. “There are several other bears working the edges of Hanover, and we don’t want to start this over again.”

The Kilham Bear Center will become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit this year. It will cost about $3,500 per cub to rehabilitate each bear, Kilham said.

Donations can be made to Bear Hill Conservancy Trust, P.O. Box 37, Lyme, N.H.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.