Fish and Game: Hanover should co-exist with local family of bears
HANOVER — Town officials are warning residents about a family of black bears that has become comfortable in a neighborhood near the Dartmouth Green.
Fish and Game says residents need to learn how to co-exist with the bears.
“If you live in New Hampshire, you live in bear country. Even if you live in the Seacoast area, where the bear population is lower, you still live in bear country,” said Fish and Game’s lead bear biologist Andrew Timmins.
Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said the family of bears is bold and feeling comfortable in the residential setting.
“People are looking out into their backyards and there are bears all over the swing set,” she said.
The black bear sow and her three cubs came out of hibernation a few weeks ago, according to Griffin.
“Momma and the three kids have been wandering around the town in the middle of the day, walking down the middle of the street with people scrambling to get out (of) their way,” Griffin said. “They are very bold and people are nervous. … Residents of the neighborhood are concerned a child might be attacked or something like that.”
Though Fish and Game has been asked to relocate the family of bears, Timmins said, other bears will simply replace these bears if the bear enticements in the neighborhood are not removed.
Timmins said bears have been a problem in Hanover for the past five years. With the cubs being born in February 2015, this particular bear family has been active for two years, he said.
There are two main bear enticements causing the issue, he said.
“The problem is getting to everybody. Everybody has to get on the same page. There can’t be birdfeeders out there and there can’t be overflowing Dumpsters,” Timmins said. “It’s so critical to not have these food attractants around your yard.”
The densely populated neighborhood has a great deal of rental properties that serve Dartmouth College students.
“A lot of them have out-of-state landlords and they have Dumpsters that aren’t bear-proof,” Timmins said. “Some of these students didn’t grow up in a bear-rich area, so they may not fully understand.”
Timmins has suggested that Hanover adopt an ordinance requiring bear-proof Dumpsters with metal tops and locks.
Lincoln first adopted the ordinance in 2003. Gorham, Franconia and Bethlehem have adopted it since then.
The Hanover neighborhood is also supplying the bear family with an easy source of food by leaving out birdfeeders year-round, he said. Birdfeeders should be brought in around April 1 or sooner if it has been a mild winter.
“This bear, she’s not out feeding on birdfeeders because she’s used to getting to them before April 1; she’s feeding on them because she’s used to getting them all summer long,” Timmins said.
Last year, New Hampshire Fish and Game documented 692 human and bear encounters, which is about average, Timmins said. Of those, 25 percent were a result of a birdfeeder and 38 percent were the result of unsecured garbage. Together, those two caused 63 percent of the bear and human encounters last year, Timmins said.
“If you could address those two issues you could immediately reduce the annual bear complaints by half,” Timmins said.
The encounters typically involve a dog that goes after the bear, and a person becomes involved because they are either trying to save the dog or the dog has retreated back to its owner, Timmins said. It’s not really the bear’s fault, Timmins said, adding that the bears are put on the defensive by dogs.
Last fall a dog in Hanover was seriously injured by a bear in its yard, Timmins said. The dog has recovered, he said.
“Hanover is like any New Hampshire community where you have a developed town center that sits in very close proximity to forest land,” Timmons said. “I think we’re fortunate to have wildlife in this state, and we simply need to learn how to co-exist with them by changing some of our behaviors.”