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Tranquilizing bear cubs killed in Manchester was unrealistic, says Fish and Game director

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 11. 2018 9:30PM
Glenn Normandeau, executive director for NH Fish and Game. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

A maintenance man at Greenview Terrace took this photo of a bear cub shortly before it was killed by New Hampshire Fish and Game. (COURTESY)

MANCHESTER — People who believe two errant bear cubs could have been subdued with tranquilizer darts and removed from a heavily congested area of Route 3A have watched too many wildlife television shows, the director of the Fish and Game Department said Thursday.

Glenn Normandeau said tranquilizers take at least 15 minutes to sedate a wild animal, and the two bear cubs that a department biologist killed on Tuesday were headed for the state highway, also known as Front Street.

The killing of the cubs has been criticized by residents of an apartment complex who say the plainclothes employee shot a cub, threw the carcass into his pickup truck, refused to speak to upset bystanders and sped away.

“These things came running down the tree and heading for the road. There was an immediate decision to be made,” Normandeau said Thursday. Wildlife TV shows give people an unrealistic notion about how quickly tranquilizers take effect, he said.

Knockout darts should only be used in a controlled situation, Normandeau said. In May, when a bear was discovered up a tree on the West Side, a net was strung below to catch the bear, onlookers were kept at a distance, and the dart was fired. The tranquilizer had time to work, and the bear fell out of the tree.

Meanwhile, Manchester police say the Fish and Game Department biologist who shot the bear won’t be cited for violating state laws that prohibit firing a weapon within 300 feet of a residential building.

“I’m all done with this,” said a frustrated Lt. Brian O’Keefe, the Manchester police spokesman, when asked. “There’s nothing that’s going to come of this. He was doing his job.”

The mid-afternoon shooting raised criticism from residents of Sundance Village, who saw the cubs roaming their parking lot just minutes before they were shot.

Normandeau said Fish and Game officials initially spotted the Manchester cubs in a tree and had hoped they would stay there until their mother retrieved them and left the area, but she never showed up.

Had the bears stayed put, Fish and Game could have tried to capture them, but once they came down that wasn’t possible, Normandeau said.

There are 10 New Hampshire bear cubs already in rehabilitation this year and at least a dozen are roaming around without a mother, Normandeau said. State law allows people to shoot bears caught destroying property such as crops and livestock.

New Hampshire has a population of 6,000 to 7,000 bears and 500 to 1,000 are taken annually by hunters. Normandeau would like to see that number rise, but few people want to hunt bears.

At this time of year, bears are in hyperphagia, a period of excessive eating and drinking to fatten themselves for hibernation. But nut crops have been scant this year, so bears are foraging for corn, chickens and honey, he said. They are also raiding dumpsters.

Normandeau urged residents to take down bird feeders, including suet, and lock dumpster lids.

A dumpster lid “is like a dinner bell to a bear,” he said.

Front Street is lined with high-density apartment and condominium complexes as well as big-box stores such as Walmart and Market Basket. In 2015, 17,000 vehicles a day traveled the road, according to data from the Southern New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission.

A maintenance man at Greenview Terrace who gave only his first name, Joe, said he spoke to the shooter, and the man denied being a Fish and Game employee. Sundance Village residents said the man was rude and quickly drove off after killing the two cubs.

Normandeau wouldn’t divulge the biologist’s name, saying the Fish and Game employee was trying to avoid confrontation.

Normandeau said Fish and Game workers, even their families, face threats when issues surface involving animals.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” he said, “With social media nowadays, the place goes into a froth.”

General News Manchester

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