February 19, 2013

NH rehabilitator seeing boom in orphaned cubs

He attributes the increase in orphaned bears to sows getting shot looking for food in chicken coops.

The Associated Press

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Ben Kilham is seen inside his 8-acre forested enclosure with a bear cub on May 12, 2012 in Lyme, N.H.

AP / Ben Kilham

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In this photo provided by Ben Kilham, some of the 27 orphaned black bears are seen inside his 8-acre forested enclosure in Lyme, N.H. Kilham typically cares for only three to five cubs each winter.

AP

Kilham, who has been studying bears for more than 20 years, has produced and appeared in numerous documentaries and written two books about bear social behavior. The second, titled "Out on a Limb," is due out this summer, and he's also working on a doctoral degree in environmental conservation that builds on his work in China helping wildlife experts who are reintroducing pandas to the wild.

Back in Lyme, much of the day-to-day care of bears falls to Kilham's sister, Phoebe, who said despite the added workload this year -- which includes four sets of triplets -- it's not hard for her to keep track of so many bears. Some of them are named for the towns where they were found -- there's "Moultonborough One" and "Moultonborough Two" -- while others have more whimsical such monikers as Clarkie, Big Girl and Slothy.

Clarkie is the group lookout and runs up to be fed first, she said. Others hang back and don't eat until the Kilhams leave. And thanks to an outpouring of donations after a local television station publicized the situation, they have plenty of dog food to keep everyone well-fed until spring.

"You get to recognize them by behavior as well as by sight," she said.

"We do pretty well. Some of those last triplets were hard to tell apart, but otherwise we do pretty well."

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