Despite several high-profile incidents, expert says it's been a typical year for bear-human encountersBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent May 17. 2018 8:26AM
Despite several high-profile bear-human conflicts lately, 2018 is shaping up as an average year, according to Andy Timmins, Bear Project leader for New Hampshire Fish and Game.
A sow with three cubs has been very active on the west side of Concord, he said. There was a bear vs. dog incident Saturday in Lancaster. And on May 7, a bear was found asleep in a tree in a densely populated Manchester neighborhood.
This fuels a perception bear activity is up, but it’s really just a return to normal after two years of fewer-than-average bear complaints, according to Timmins.
He said Fish and Game receives about 600 bear complaints in an average year, with most coming between May and August. Where Fish and Game has been seeing an increase in complaints is southern New Hampshire, along the Massachusetts border, he said.
Timmins’ phone has been “ringing off the hook” with calls from people living in suburban and even urban areas of the state.
Even though the bear population in that area is growing, Timmins said the state’s overall bear population “is actually at the management objective” of 6,000.
He said the Concord bears are “really good at penetrating” a built-up part of that city, adding he was “amazed” by how many people feed birds in the downtown of the capital.
Bears in the Granite State like easily accessible bird feeders, unsecured garbage and chicken coops, said Timmins. The remedy is to take down bird feeders, use trash receptacles with locking tops and electric fence around chicken coops.
Fish and Game will even let you borrow an electric fence and teach you how to use it, according to Timmins.
The mother bear that tangled with a Lancaster couple’s Chesapeake Bay retriever last Saturday was ostensibly lured by garbage and chickens, he said. The couple had been loaned an electric fence in the past and instructed how to keep bears out of garbage, but they “seem hesitant to take our advice,” he said.
By Timmins’ recollection, Fish and Game has responded to that Lancaster property for a bear complaint at least once every year over the past decade and has removed bear families living nearby.
“If you have food attractants, you will attract bears,” said Timmins.
Except where someone or something comes between a sow and her cubs, or between a bear and a food source, “bears and dogs get along fine,” he said.
Even then, the dog is typically the aggressor and the bear responds defensively, Timmins said.
“In my 23 years, I’ve never had documentation of a bear coming into a yard and injuring a dog on a leash or minding its own business,” he said.
Over time, the number of bear complaints received by Fish and Game has “absolutely stabilized,” Timmins said.