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Spike in cub orphaning concerns state's bear biologist

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A mama bear tries to keep her cubs safe while crossing a road. (Courtesy photo)

ROCHESTER - The state's top bear biologist said on Monday that the same predicament facing squirrels this fall is facing New Hampshire's bear population.

Namely not enough food and not much time before the snow flies.

But perhaps even worse, according to Andy Timmins of Fish and Game, is that cub orphaning has spiked dramatically, so much so that he is personally urging hunters to not take a sow if they see cubs about.

"If a sow has cubs, we're asking hunters to pass on the sows," Timmins said.

Timmins, as the top bear biologist for the entire state, isn't kept abreast of each and every bear sighting, but he said he was aware of a mother bear who was killed in a collision with a vehicle in Rochester on or about Sept. 22.

He said the cubs from that sow were likely the ones spotted on Wednesday near the police station, and on Charles and Academy streets.

He said a Sunday sighting in the Union Street parking lot was likely a different family, but said residents of Rochester and the surrounding towns can expect to see more bears around in the coming weeks due to the food shortage, which is mainly caused by a dearth of acorns, beechnuts and cherries.

He urged all homeowners to not put their bird feeders up until Dec. 1 and reminded everyone to keep grills clean and locked lids on outdoor trash receptacles.

"If your don't have a locking trash lid, demand one from your trash collector," he said.

This year's abundance of squirrels and bears both seeking food for the winter is a result of last year's behemoth acorn crop, which led to an explosion in both the bear and squirrel population, Timmins said.

Now, with winter approaching larger numbers of both species are searching for a more scarce food supply. He said they rarely see this much bear activity and complaints in the fall.

Timmins said if humans encounter bears they should steer clear, but know that there is only an extremely remote chance that a mother bear would every become aggressive, even if the human were in proximity to her cubs.

"She might huff and haw and make some noise, but she's not going to hurt you," he said. "That's a misconception."

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