Orphan yearling bears find new homes on Forest Society properties
Bears fattened over the 2018-19 winter on dog kibble, apples and corn at the Kilham Bear Center in Lyme. The release included sedating the yearling cubs for a veterinarian exam, numbered ear tags and loading into crates or dog kennels filled with soft hay for transport to remote undisclosed locations. Of the more than 65 cubs that wintered-over at the Kilham Center, fourteen cubs were released onto 5 different Forest Society Reservations located far from urban or suburban settings.
The groggy yearling bears were packed into well-ventilated boxes with soft, dry hay for their rides to various locations. NH and VT wildlife officials sedated the bears and veterinarians placed ear tags and monitored heart rates and administered anti-worm and anti-mite vaccinations before the bears were sealed into their crates for transport.
What a thrill to experience an authentic bear hug as some Forest Society staff had opportunities to lift and carry the cubs. Some had arrived at the Kilham Center in late autumn weighing less than 12-15 pounds. Most left in early May weighing 40 to 60 pounds.
New England Black bear expert Ben Kilham of Lyme (left) has rehabilitated hundreds of bears over several decades. Forest Society managing forester, Wendy Weisiger (right) cradles a yearling heading back to the forest.
To learn more about the Kilham Bear Center, visit https://kilhambearcenter.org
Left: Down but not out, bears are groggy but not fully sedated when leaving the Kilham Center. Right: arriving at their new homes, the bears are released from crates into the surrounding woods where Kilham says they will immediately begin to feed on spring green leaves, shoots and tender vegetation after a winter diet of dog kibble, apples and corn.
To watch video of the bear cub release click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS1xPYuyAUg&feature=youtu.be
Some bears dispersed faster than others, sprinting away into their new homes.
Other bears still groggy from sedation looked back toward the release site as if in wonder about what had just happened. Bears are superbly adapted to forest habitats, climbing trees and seeking green vegetation and room to roam and disperse.
This cub makes contact with a hemlock after a winter in captivity with as many as 65 other bears who were orphaned, losing their mothers to cars, hunters and law enforcement agencies as starvation drove sows to enter homes or travel across busy roads and encounter humans during the late summer, autumn and early winter 2018-19.
Freedom! Forest! Food!
Removing the side panel of a bear crate to release a yearling.
These bears didn't waste time hanging around when emerging from the crates. Ben Kilham shares that black bears are highly social animals and given the opportunty will form relationships with other bears over the winter and potentially with other resident bears in their new homes. The Forest Society was pleased to work in partnership with NH Fish and Game bear biologists and the Kilham Bear Center to provide larger blocks of protected land as suitable release sites for the dispersing yearlings.
To see videos of the releases, click here.
These photos accompany a story that first appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Forest Notes: New Hampshire's Conservation Magazine. Join today to start receiving our quarterly, award-winning magazine that will keep you up-to-date on the latest land conservation news and special stories of people and place in New Hampshire. Photos by Jason Morris, Cheryl Kimball, Wendy Weisiger, Carrie Deegan, Dave Anderson.