Hope is fading that a third cub born to Mink the Bear in January will be rescued after one of her cubs was hit by a car and killed on Route 10 in West Lebanon.
Mink, who became an Upper Valley celebrity for her dumpster-diving and close interactions with humans, was found dead last month near the Mascoma River in Lebanon.
The search to rescue her three male cubs started right away. About a week later, Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulas was able to help rescue one of the cubs, now named Chief. Chief is now at the Kilham Bear Center in Lyme.
Ben Kilham, who runs the center, said the cub killed Monday is definitely Mink’s.
“It’s almost identical to Mink and the cub we have at the center. The facial markings of bears in the litters are almost always the same as the mothers,” he said.
Hanover Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hinsley, who does frequent bear duty in the Upper Valley, said a cub was seen on trail camera footage getting hit by a car last week in the same area as the cub hit Monday.
“We searched but never found a body but little bear cubs don’t do well after taking as hard a hit from a pickup truck as described,” Hinsley said of the cub hit last week.
He is worried that the cub seen hit last week was not the cub who got hit Monday, and that it could be the third missing cub.
Hinsley hasn’t given up completely on finding the third cub.
“I remain hopeful because I have learned to never, ever, underestimate not just nature, but the sheer strength, determination and spirit of a bear named Mink,” Hinsley said. “As a cub of Mink’s, I would not underestimate or give up on him just yet.”
It’s still unclear what happened to Mink, Kilham said. An examination of her carcass revealed she was not hit by a car or shot.
“She was very old, that was apparent from her teeth,” Kilham said.
Mink gained fame when her encounters with people put her in danger. She was seen in backyards and in downtown Hanover dumpsters. She had three cubs when New Hampshire Fish and Game decided to euthanize her in 2017. Gov. Chris Sununu intervened and Mink and her cubs were instead captured and sent to the Kilham Bear Center in the spring of 2018.
Kilham said Chief is doing fine and eating like crazy. He thinks the cub will be able to go back into the wild as he matures.
“He’ll do fine,” Kilham said.