Up to a month earlier than usual, the state’s bears are beginning to wake up from the winter of 2019-2020, with sows expected to bring forth more cubs than a year ago, says Andy Timmins, the bear project leader with the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game.
“They’re definitely getting active, for sure,” Timmins said Monday during a telephone from his office at the District 1 Fish and Game office in Lancaster, “probably two to four weeks earlier than what we would expect in a more typical year with a more typical winter and people need to pretend it’s April 1.”
Each year by that date, Timmins asks that people do two things to minimize bear/human conflicts: take down bird feeders and secure their garbage.
Also around that time, when some folks go to their local farm-supply stores to pick up baby chickens, Timmins would appreciate if they also picked up electric fencing while there to protect those birds from the bears.
“Avoid a conflict before it happens,” said Timmins, who added that in 2019, which was what he called a lower-than-average year, there were about 600 complaints statewide about bears.
He said in about 10 of those instances, Fish and Game had to euthanize the bears involved.
Timmins said 2020 has been “relatively quiet,” so far, in terms of complaints, although he received a report Monday of a bird feeder-robbing bear in Berlin.
“There have been sporadic reports of bears getting active downstate, but it doesn’t matter where you live, you can see some activities,” said Timmins, referring to the 5,600 bears estimated to be living in the Granite State.
Asked whether he’s concerned that bears will be leaving their dens soon, Timmins answered that he was “because it’s going to a while before it greens up.”
“In a perfect world, they (the bears) would stay inactive until the beginning of April and when they emerge would coincide with the rapid spring green-up,” said Timmins “Now that spring is here, my hope is for good rain and good warmth to get that vegetation started.”
The emerging bears will be able to find some food, however.
“One buffer that we do have this year is that there are still a lot of acorns laying around the woods from last year’s crop,” said Timmins.
“We’re coming off a couple-year period where we’ve had reduced productivity for bears,” said Timmins, in particular the low-food fall of 2018 after which “we saw very low litter sizes and high mortality.”
But in 2020, “We expect to have larger litters because of the abundance of fall foods,” Timmins said, and accordingly, “people should expect to see more sows with cubs.”