June 16. 2017 12:54AM

Bear-human conflicts common throughout NH between 2012-2016

Union Leader Correspondent

Getting ready for release later this spring, an orphaned yearling cub peers out April 26 from the ceiling rafters of an enclosure at Ben Kilham's rehabilitation facility in Lyme. (John Koziol)

Five years of bears

Towns with the most reports of bear-human conflicts, 2012-2016, according to New Hampshire Fish & Game:

Conway 161
Bartlett 87
Berlin 86
Littleton 75
Jackson 66
Whitefield 64
Bethlehem 61
Moultonborough 61
Meredith 55
Ossipee 51
Tamworth 51

The state's cities, farther south, had fewer incidents:

Lebanon 28
Concord 26
Keene 17
Laconia 17
Franklin 11
Claremont 8
Rochester 5
Nashua 4
Manchester 3

LITTLETON — Nearly every New Hampshire city and town has had human-bear conflicts over the past five years, but Conway leads the pack with 161 bear complaints, nearly twice as many as neighboring Bartlett.

Some of the data collected by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department were presented by Fish and Game Bear Project leader Andy Timmins on Monday to the Littleton Board of Selectmen.

The selectmen held a public hearing and were set to vote on an ordinance that would require trash receptacles to be covered to eliminate standing water that can become a breeding ground for mosquitos.

Timmins, who lives in Littleton, noted that trash receptacles are popular with bears and scavenging animals, such as raccoons and skunks that could carry rabies.

He urged the selectmen to add language that would require the receptacles to be securely shut.

To make his case, Timmins pointed out that Littleton had 75 bear-human conflicts reported in the five-year period ending Dec. 31, which was the fourth most out of 229 municipalities.

Selectmen Chair Schuyler Sweet said that prompted the selectmen to postpone action on the ordinance while they study either adding bear-related language or creating a separate bear-specific ordinance.

According to Fish and Game, 38 percent of the bear-human conflicts recorded in 2016 were caused by bears going into unsecured trash receptacles; 25 percent by bears taking down birdfeeders; and 23 percent by bears entering chicken or poultry enclosures.

Eighty-six percent of those incidents could be eliminated, said Timmins in a letter to the selectmen, simply by securing trash in bear-proof containers; taking down birdfeeders; and installing an electric fence around chicken coops and livestock pens.

He presented the selectmen with a copy of an ordinance that Lincoln adopted in 2003.

The number of human-bear incidents there has dropped 82 percent since then. Gorham, Franconia and Bethlehem have similar ordinances, Timmins said.

According to Fish and Game, Conway was the state’s bear-human conflict hotspot with 161 between 2012-2016. A distant second was Bartlett with 87, followed by Berlin with 86. Hanover, which made headlines recently due to the presence of a mother bear and her three cubs, had 40 complaints.

Because they had become too habituated to human beings and had entered homes, the Hanover bears were slated to be euthanized by Fish and Game but thanks to an online campaign that got the support of Gov. Chris Sununu, they were spared and the cubs were subsequently trapped and relocated to the upper North Country.