Mink the bear returns to Hanover

  • Mink the black bear sow has recently returned to the streets of Hanover. Courtesy Town of Hanover

Published: 5/17/2019 6:05:43 PM
Modified: 5/17/2019 6:05:31 PM

For Mink, there’s no place like Hanover.

The black bear sow, who was captured and sent to northern Coos County last summer, is back in town and her home range, officials with the town of Hanover and New Hampshire Fish and Game Department confirmed on Friday.

“She has returned and is using the same areas that she previously had adjacent to Mink Brook in Hanover,” Andrew Timmins, the Fish and Game bear project leader, wrote in an email.

“It’s Mink, with her lovely orange collar on,” added Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin, who said the town plans to consult with Fish and Game and Lyme-based bear expert Ben Kilham on the implications.

She said the likely path is to “monitor her behavior and figure out if she is going to be able to peacefully co-exist, or are we going to be right back at it with nuisance bear behavior?”

Wildlife officials last June sedated Mink and relocated her to northern New Hampshire, near the Canadian border, after she had taught at least two sets of cubs to forage for food in the backyards and dumpsters of downtown Hanover, not far from the Dartmouth College campus.

Her four cubs from a litter last year were also captured and taken to Kilham’s bear preserve in Lyme.

Mink was spotted and photographed last month in Woodstock Village, across the Connecticut River in Vermont, and Timmins, who has been monitoring the bear’s movements on a daily basis through GPS and a tracking collar, said she had denned up for the winter in Pomfret.

He and the Vermont state bear expert, Forrest Hammond, had checked on Mink in her den in March and found she weighed about 165 pounds, down from the 200 she weighed when she was exiled from Hanover last summer.

But her return to Hanover – she was photographed outside a home on Crowley Terrace, which is a few blocks south of the Hanover Co-op Food Store and abuts woods that include the Appalachian Trail – renew questions about whether she can live safely in Hanover.

After some of the sow’s yearling cubs entered a home with children in it in 2017, wildlife officials at the time planned to kill Mink and her cubs, but changed plans when Gov. Chris Sununu intervened amid a public outcry.

Asked about the bear’s return to Hanover, New Hampshire Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau on Friday said, “There is no ‘plan’ to deal with this bear.

“We are not going to treat ‘Mink’ any different than any other of the hundreds of bears we deal with each year. As long as she stays out of trouble she will be left alone by us, as she has been since being moved 11 months ago. We can only hope the public will not do things that induce her to become a problem, like feeding,” he said by email.

“If an issue does arise we will collectively decide the best way to proceed.”

Griffin said because Mink does not currently have cubs, she may head away from downtown to look for a mate in the next month.

“The hope is that this summer she’ll be wandering around looking for a mate and not right there in the Mink Brook corridor,” she said.

Hanover, which has large rural swaths, has as many as eight bears in its territory, and Griffin said the town has been working hard to encourage residents and Dartmouth College students to bring in bird feeders, secure grills after cooking and safely store trash inside until shortly before pickup times.

“I’d like to think that our residents are a lot more educated than they were two years ago,” Griffin said.

Still, Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hinsley recently had to talk to residents of the Mulherrin Farm neighborhood about their “industrial bird feeding operation,” Griffin said.

Bird seed is a powerful attractant for bears, and Griffin said it’s a myth to think that it’s okay to put feeders out in the day and then take them in at night.

A report on Mink’s travels on National Public Radio earlier this week prompted dozens of calls to the town from around the country – the Valley News even got an email from a man in Orlando, Fla., offering to help rehabilitate Mink, saying he had once been a caretaker for a 365-pound Andean bear in Bolivia.

Griffin said the town is now referring all out-of-town calls to the governor’s office, and is trying to discourage “lookie-loos” who may come to town with hopes of seeing Mink.

“We should very much be able to live in close proximity to this bear if we behave ourselves,” Griffin said.




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