Group effort locates Mink’s final cub

by Sydney Wuu | 10/22/20 2:05am

mink-cub
Source: Courtesy of Ben Kilham

After a seven-week search, Mink the bear’s final missing cub Lori has been safely brought to the Kilham Bear Center in Lyme, New Hampshire, where he has reunited with his older brother, Chief, for the first time in almost two months.

“The two Mink cubs clearly recognize each other,” president and founder of the bear rehabilitation center Ben Kilham said. “They play and wrestle like they’re brothers, and they sleep close to each other.”

Mink, the locally and nationally famous black bear beloved for her long journeys back to the Upper Valley, was found dead near the Mascoma River in Lebanon over the summer, orphaning three male cubs born in January. While one cub, Chief, was captured and brought to the Kilham Bear Center several days after Mink’s death, another was killed by an Advanced Transit bus on Route 10 last month, prompting an area-wide search led by several fire safety officials for the third and final cub. 

The Lebanon fire department experienced a sharp increase in reports over the span of two weeks about a lone cub in the area, according to Lebanon fire chief Chris Christopoulos. Following up on the uptick in reports, Christopoulos and his team set up traps in different areas to scout for the missing mammal and eventually captured him behind Tractor Supply in Lebanon.

“It’s hit or miss — they move a lot of ground every day,” Christopoulos said. “We were fairly confident this bear was coming back to this area to eat some food scraps that were tossed over the [Mascoma River] bank, and he did. In fact, when I got there to re-bait the trap on Tuesday afternoon of last week, the bear was sitting on the hill eating bird seed, so at this point we knew he was going to hang around the area.”

Taking advantage of the bear’s sweet tooth, Christopulous decided to swap the bird seed for maple donuts while luring Lori into a cage for safe capture and transport to the rehabilitation center.

“We knew donuts were going to be a lot more attractive than bird seed — higher calories, more fat, more sugar,” he explained.

New Hampshire Fish and Game bear project leader Andrew Timmins said that Lori’s capture was a group effort. Christopoulos, as well as Hanover deputy fire chief Michael Hinsley and head of Dartmouth’s fire safety department Bruce Plummer, spearheaded the bear-searching efforts.

“The three of them had traps at their disposal, and whenever we got sightings I’d share that information with them immediately and they’d follow up on it,” said Timmins, who resides two hours north from the area where the bear hunt took place. “What really made this all successful was having them there available to respond immediately to calls, but also the fact that the public was so good at catching on sightings.”

Timmins added that the recognition between the two bears upon arrival at the rehabilitation center made him feel “very confident” that the bear was indeed part of that family group.

Kilham said that the bears “interact very well” with one another and the seven other cubs in the cub barn. He added that while Mink’s first cub Chief initially did not get along very well with the other 35 bears at the center, he appears “very happy” now that his younger brother has arrived there.

Christopoulos said that the bears will hopefully be released from the rehabilitation facility next spring. The Kilham Bear Center will care for Chief and Lori until they are strong enough to return to the wild on their own.