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Governor welcomes back bear

  • The New Hampshire House overrode Governor Chris Sununu's veto of a death penalty repeal, meeting the required two thirds majority by one vote Thursday, May 23, 2019. The Senate could vote next week. Sununu visited the Kilham Bear Center and toured businesses in the Upper Valley on Thursday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, center, was given a tour of West Canaan, N.H., manufacturer Harris Rebar by regional manager, Garrett Trombi, left, and branch manager Tim Leonard, obscured, Thursday, May 23, 2019. Stephen Bisbee packages lengths of rebar after bending them at left.(Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu arrives at Harris Rebar for a tour in West Canaan, N.H., Thursday, May 23, 2019. at left is Sununu's legislative advisor Christopher Collins and at right is Garrett Trombi, a regional manager for Harris Rebar. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, May 23, 2019

WEST CANAAN — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu says he has no regrets about overruling state wildlife officials on how to handle nuisance Hanover bears, even after one of the animals migrated hundreds of miles from the Canadian board back to town.

A prominent bear expert also said Sununu made the right call.

In 2018, wildlife experts had planned to destroy a bear family led by Mink, a black bear sow who became infamous for foraging through downtown backyard and dumpsters with her cubs in tow.

Sununu stepped in and ordered the capture of the cubs, which were taken to a Lyme preserve. Instead of being destroyed, the mother was sent to far northern New Hampshire, even though experts warned she would most certainly embark on a fraught journey back to her home range near Mink Brook.

Indeed, after thousands of meandering miles, Mink’s return to Hanover was verified by her tracking collar and sightings earlier this month.

Nonetheless, during a visit to the Upper Valley on Thursday, Sununu said his decision to move the bear “was the absolute right thing to do” and ultimately saved her life, Sununu said during a stop in Canaan on Thursday.

Now that Mink has journeyed back Hanover, people will have to learn to coexist with her, he said.

“She’s an incredibly gentle bear that was in a situation where she was just looking for food in a very tough year where there wasn’t a whole lot of food frankly,” Sununu said after a tour of Harris Rebar in Canaan on Thursday.

So far, Mink has not displayed any of the behaviors that ran her afoul of wildlife officials during her last stay.

Officials’ decision to kill Mink and her cubs came after the cubs entered a Hanover home where children were present in 2017.

Sununu intervened to save the bears after a public outcry.

While four of her cubs were taken last spring to bear expert Ben Kilham’s rehabilitation preserve in Lyme, Mink was sedated and sent to the North Country in June.

“They’ve all done very well and there won’t be any issues,” said Kilham of the cubs on Thursday.

Kilham hosted Sununu for a visit on Thursday morning and said he supported the decision to save the bears.

“Mink has not broken any rules and it was her cubs that entered that building,” he said in a phone interview. “She’s been gone nearly a year now and got into zero trouble the entire trip. She really should be treated as just any other bear.”

Sununu said Mink will serve as a reminder that communities share responsibility in protecting bears and preventing future conflicts by sealing garbage cans and taking down bird feeders.

“People just have to understand. This is where we live. This is part of New Hampshire and we have a responsibility of making sure we don’t put the bears in harm’s way,” he said.

The two-term Republican governor also touched on politics during his trip, and cast doubt on whether the Granite State will adopt a paid family leave program this year.

Sununu vetoed a Democratic proposal earlier this month that would have covered 60% of a person’s wages for up to 12 weeks of time off for family illness, health emergencies, births and adoptions. At the time, he called plans to fund the program through a 0.5% payroll deduction an “income tax.”

On Thursday, Sununu implied that any forthcoming deal with Democrats is unlikely.

“You’ve seen the compromise. The compromise is what I put into the budget,” he said, referring to an alternative plan put forward with Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.

“They insisted on doing it their way,” Sununu said. “That’s obviously not going to fly and there’s no way that (veto will) ever get overturned.”

State Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, who championed the Democratic plan, said on Thursday evening that Sununu refused meetings to work out a compromise.

“His placeholder language wasn’t a ‘plan,’ it was a political tactic,” Feltes said in a statement. “The truth is Gov. Sununu opposes paid family leave and he’s holding New Hampshire back from making progress for working families and small businesses.”

Aside from stops in Lyme and Canaan, Sununu also visited Keene Medical Products in Enfield.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.