State wildlife officials are considering scrapping their plans to relocate a female bear from the Hanover area.
It’s the latest turn-of-events for an animal whose fate has swung dramatically over the past year, aided in part by a grassroots public-awareness campaign and a last-minute reprieve by Governor Chris Sununu.
Fish and Game officials decided last spring to kill the bear after her then-yearlings got into a home in Hanover.
The animals had become highly habituated to living around humans. They were often seen in local neighborhoods, in and around dumpsters and other trash containers.
But an Upper Valley resident started a petition to save the bears, which spread quickly online. Sununu then directed Fish and Game to relocate the animals, rather than kill them.
The sow, though, evaded capture before going into hibernation. This spring, she reappeared with four new cubs. State wildlife officials fitted her with a radio collar, aiming to capture and relocate her later in the season when snow and weather conditions were more favorable.
But a number of factors now have them second-guessing that plan of action, said Andy Timmins, who directs Fish and Game’s bear program.
For one, the bear, which has been nicknamed “Mink” after the popular Mink Brook Nature Preserve in town, faces a lower likelihood of survival if relocated. That’s true of her cubs, as well.
“When you dump a bear into a new area, you’re dumping her into an area where there’s already a social structure among the bear population,” he said. “She’s suddenly going to be at the bottom of the totem pole.”
She won’t have access to the highest quality foods, he said, and will likely attempt to travel a great distance to get home.
Secondly, data from the radio collar combined with reports of bear sightings in the area have made clear that there are other animals that would take Mink’s place if she’s removed. “When we move her out, we suspect other bears will infiltrate the area,” Timmins said.
And thirdly, he said, local businesses and residents have done a good job removing garbage, bird feeders and other food sources. This has encouraged the bears to seek out food in the wild.
“We’re starting to get some hope that she can exist in Hanover without conflict,” he said, “which would be the best outcome for both her and her cubs.”
He’ll be taking more feedback from local residents before deciding on the next plan of action.
“We have 6,000 bears in this state,” he said. “At some point, you have to ask yourself, how much do we get involved with an individual bear.”