Family of bears reemerges around town and campus
A sleuth of bears has stumbled back into the Hanover area having just emerged from hibernation. The changing of the seasons has brought an increased number of bear sightings near School Street as a sow and her cubs, now old enough to be considered yearlings, have been spotted multiple times by local residents in and around the Hanover area. The sleuth is likely the same group that was seen by multiple students this past fall near the same location.
“As spring approaches and the snow starts melting, bears are going to be coming out of their dens and they’re going to be looking for food,” Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis said. “Black bears are not generally aggressive, so we can reduce the food attractants that are in and around Hanover to help keep the bears away from the residential population.”
The removal of food attractants includes taking down bird feeders for the rest of the winter, securing garbage and getting dumpster companies to provide steel top, bear-proof dumpsters.
Hanover town manager Julia Griffin emphasized that bears are attracted to downtown locations because of these dining options.
Because of the increased number of bear sightings, the town of Hanover is urging residents to “Be Bear Wise” on its website. The post encouraged citizens to be aware of the differences between emergency and non-emergency bear situations. Emergency situations include bears entering a school yard while school is in session, entering or trying to enter a residence and wandering into a public gathering. In these situations, citizens are advised to call 911. Non-emergency situations include a bear roaming around and checking a garbage can and breaking into a shed where garbage or food is stored or pulling down a bird feeder while in a tree, which warrants a call to the Hanover Police Department’s non-emergency number.
“It’s not unusual to see bears right in town because downtown is located very close to ideal bear habitat along Mink Brook,” Griffin said. “This particular mom is very comfortable having her youngsters right in town.”
Although New Hampshire Fish and Game has been asked to relocate the bears, New Hampshire Fish and Game wildlife biologist Andrew Timmins said that moving the bears out of Hanover to the northern region of the state would not make much sense. Since the Hanover area is the sow’s home range, she would attempt to move back to the area putting her at risk of other mortality factors, such as getting hit by a motor vehicle. Additionally, the New Hampshire bear population is large enough that another bear would simply take her place if she were to be moved.
Although bear sightings in Hanover are slightly less common than they are in the rest of New Hampshire, Timmins said that this sow has been around for a couple of years now. Despite its proximity to Hanover, the sleuth of bears had not been involved in any incidents until last November when the sow reacted defensively to the presence of a dog.
“There was a dog that went after the bear last fall at a dumpster and did get swatted and banged up some,” Timmins said. “I don’t know positively if that was that same bear family, but it very well may have been.”
Director of Safety and Security Harry Kinne encouraged all students not only to avoid going near any wild animals but also to make efforts to secure garbage.
“We don’t usually get them on campus,” Kinne said. “We’ve had a few over the years and generally what we do is contact Hanover Police. The bears are usually gone by the time everybody arrives, because they are not necessarily comfortable with being around people.”
Griffin echoed Kinne’s sentiments, encouraging students living off-campus to take steps to secure their garbage by either keeping it inside or putting it in a dumpster with a locking lid. Additionally, Griffin said that town officials were looking at the idea of requiring property owners to have bear-proof trash cans.
“That’s something we can theoretically do under state law, but we’re just not sure we want to be the trash police,” Griffin said. “We’re exploring that now internally amongst staff in terms of the viability. It’s something that we’re considering.”