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Pesky bear family will be moved to Pittsburg after governor intervenes in plan to euthanize them

By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent

May 25. 2017 9:49PM
This photo is taken from an online petition on change.org that seeks to save a family of bears that has become a safety concern in Hanover. (JED WILLIAMSON)



New Hampshire Fish and Game officials, overruled by Gov. Chris Sununu, expect to put out traps Friday night in an effort to capture a mother bear and her three cubs and relocate them to Pittsburg, the most northern town in the state.

Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday said he opposed  Fish and Game’s original plans to capture and euthanize the bear family, which had recently entered a home in Hanover.

“I share the concerns of many of our citizens when it comes to finding a safe and human way to remove the threat these bears represent,” Sununu said on Thursday. “I have spoken to Fish and Game and we are working on seeing what alternatives are available to resolve the situation.”

Andrew Timmins, Fish and Game’s lead bear biologist, said Friday that officers will put out culvert-style traps baited with donuts to try and capture the four bears.  He said it could take several days to catch them.

The traps resemble large road culverts and have drop doors on each end that close shut once the bear enters it.

He said officers will probably have better luck in capturing them if they bait the traps with bird seed, which the bears are accustomed to eating in Hanover.

State Fish and Game experts previously concluded the bears must be euthanized because once they enter a home, they become domesticated and will continue the same behavior in the future.

Nicole Cantlin of Enfield started an online petition protesting Fish and Game’s plans to kill the bears.  By 2:30 p.m. Friday, 9,832 people had signed it.

She posted an update saying the governor  “put hold on destroying the bears.  Seriously guys thank you all.  Every single one of you!  We all did this. We all are saving the bears!”

Timmins had previously explained that the department has a strict policy that says if bears enter homes they have to be destroyed.

The bears had tried to enter a home a few times before succeeding last weekend in Hanover.  He said it was not the department’s preference to euthanize the bears but the mother bear and her cubs had been very active in Hanover since last summer.

Bear experts say relocation is not a solution because bears can cover a hundred miles in a few days and the family could make their way back to their old stomping ground.

“I will be happy if it works,” Timmins said.

Black bear expert Ben Kilham of Lyme said Hanover can expect more bears to move in unless changes are made.  Those changes include residents taking down bird feeders and securing their garbage.

The best thing residents can do at this point is work with town officials to enact ordinances to fine for this type of behavior.

Union Leader correspondent Kimberley Haas and staff writers Kevin Landrigan and Pat Grossmith  contributed to this report.  Earlier version of this story continues below in full.
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Governor: 'Don't worry, we aren't going to kill the bears'


PORTSMOUTH — Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday afternoon that he opposes the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's plans to capture and euthanize a mother bear and her three cubs that recently entered a home in Hanover.

"This morning, I was trying to save bears out in Hanover. If you were watching the news, we are trying to save bears. Don't worry, we aren't going to kill the bears," Sununu said in remarks at Portsmouth Regional Hospital during the Project SEARCH graduation event.

"I share the concerns of many of our citizens when it comes to finding a safe and human way to remove the threat these bears represent," Sununu said when asked if he's working with Fish and Game on a plan to remotely release the bears into the wild. "I have spoken to Fish and Game and we are working on seeing what alternatives are available to resolve the situation."

State Fish and Game experts have previously concluded the bears must be euthanized because once they enter a home, they become domesticated and will continue the same behavior in the future.

An online petition is protesting Fish and Game's plans to carry out this action.

Andrew Timmins, Fish and Game's lead bear biologist, said earlier Thursday that the petition will have no effect on the department's decision.

"We have a strict department policy that says bears that enter homes have to be destroyed," Timmins said. "That has been the decision that we have ultimately come up with based on everything that has taken place."

The tipping point came over the weekend when the bears entered a home. The bears had made a few previous attempts, Timmins said, "then they went into a house over the weekend. … Bears that enter homes will be destroyed. … It's not our preference. We've been working pretty diligently with the town of Hanover and residents since last summer to avoid getting to this point. She was very active in that community last summer with those three young cubs."

Started by Nicole Cantlin of Enfield, the petition had more than 6,000 signatures Thursday evening.

Relocation is not a solution, Timmins and black bear expert Ben Kilham of Lyme said Thursday. Kilham is New Hampshire's only licensed bear rehabilitator, and is an expert on black bear behavior.

Kilham said Hanover can expect more bears to move in unless changes are made. The best thing residents can do at this point is work with town officials to enact ordinances to fine for this type of behavior.

mpierce@newstote.com; Union Leader correspondent Kimberley Haas and staff writer Kevin Landrigan contributed to this report.


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