Relocated Hanover bear killed in Canada

by Anthony Robles | 11/10/17 2:10am

One of the three bears that were captured and relocated to Pittsburg, New Hampshire after entering a local home last spring has been lawfully shot and killed by a hunter in Quebec, which has a legal bear hunting season during the fall, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game wildlife biologist Andrew Timmins. The death occurred on June 16, 18 days after the bears were relocated, but Timmins said he only recently received confirmation of its occurrence.

This past March, a sleuth of bears emerged from hibernation and began to disrupt residential life in Hanover. New Hampshire Fish and Game initially wanted to capture and euthanize the bears, but Gov. Chris Sununu intervened and ordered that three of them, then young cubs, be captured and relocated, which occurred over Memorial Day weekend.

“None of us really had any desire to destroy those animals,” Timmins said. “We were concerned about their ability to be successful bears in the wild because of their level of habituation and the fact that they entered homes. Once the decision was made that we were releasing them, we just went with it and wished them the best.”

Not everyone agreed with Sununu’s decision. Following the announcement, Democratic State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, who represents the North Country, tweeted that Sununu should let “wild life experts do their job” and not “relocate nuisance bears” to the north country.

Timmins said he was relieved that the bears were not killed in retaliation for endangering people.

“Our greatest fear was that they’d just go into a community and repeat the behavior and be shot as a nuisance animal, and that was not the case with this animal,” Timmins said.

Upon capture, each bear received an ear tag with a unique number sequence, Timmins said, that led to the identification of the killed yearling. However, ear tags cannot be used to track movements and location, which is why they did not immediately know the bear had died. Timmins said he was notified of the bear’s death by a friend of the hunter who killed it and then confirmed the occurrence with his Quebec counterparts.

Since the other two yearlings were also ear-tagged, it is not known whether they are still alive, Timmins said. He added that they could have died from natural causes or been shot in a conflict situation with a homeowner who chose to not report the incident. However, the absence of reports regarding the other two bears could also signify that they have become integrated into the wild, he said.

The mother of the three yearlings, meanwhile, remains in the Hanover area and was spotted on two or three different occasions during the late summer and early fall, Timmins said. He believes that she is currently pregnant and will have cubs in either January or February before surfacing again in the spring.

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin echoed Timmins’ sentiments, saying she also believes that the sow will deliver cubs during the winter. Griffin warned that sows with newborn cubs are protective over their offspring and stressed the importance of not approaching any of the bears.

“The biggest thing we worry about is when the three cubs entered a home that had small children inside at the time,” Griffin said. “These cubs were so habituated to people that they weren’t afraid of them. That’s what you really have to guard against — having another set of cubs that are so comfortable around people that we end up with the same cycle starting again.”

However, Griffin said she believes that the bears pose more of a threat to house pets such as cats and dogs. Last November, the sow reacted defensively to the presence of a dog at a residence on Ripley Road, which left the dog with minor injuries.

Griffin said that to educate Hanover residents about the bears, town officials conducted a town-wide mailing, which included Dartmouth students, back in late June that was intended to provide information regarding bears’ behavior and provided links to companies that sell bear-proof dumpsters.

According to Griffin, nine times out of 10 that Hanover Police responds to bear calls, it’s usually because bears were digging into people’s trash. Griffin said that most of these incidents occurred at off-campus student housing, as most students do not manage their trash like individual homeowners, leading the bears to become habituated.

“In order to prevent this from happening again, we really need students, especially those living off-campus, to work with their landlords to manage their outdoor storage of trash so that we’re a community that’s less attractive to the bears,” Griffin said. “The bears were having a feeding extravaganza amongst the food trash.”

She said that town officials were prepared to relocate the sow and her next batch of cubs if she continues to frequent Hanover neighborhoods as a source of food in the spring.

“We can always hope that she won’t be a problem and that she won’t be as inclined to keep her cubs right here in the Mink Brook corridor, but this is her territory,” Griffin said.