The Hanover Conservancy has worked hard for many, many years to educate the Hanover community about how to co-exist with native wildlife, including the bears that, for generations, have occupied a home range near downtown and Mink Brook. We’ve sponsored programs by a variety of bear experts, blanketed inboxes with repeated pleas to take in birdfeeders, stuffed flyers in doors, posted signs, and sought help from the town and state. We organized a meeting with these experts and, most recently, sought volunteers to help with “bear hazing” to try to deter the bears from approaching homes in a last-ditch effort to stave off the inevitable.
Despite these efforts and those of many concerned neighbors, a bounty of birdfeeders, unsecured trash, and other inappropriate food sources remained available, leading the mother bear to teach her cubs to seek these rather than wild foods. The result is cubs that are twice the size they should be for their age, with no fear of humans or concept of bear/human boundaries. Much as we’d like to imagine that a different future could await bears that think it’s okay to help themselves to brownies on a kitchen counter, there is, unfortunately, no “Bear-Anon” to rehabilitate a bear that has strayed from its wild roots. And it is not the bears’ fault.
The bears will ultimately pay the price for human mistakes that are forcing state biologists to trap and euthanize the mother and her cubs. Nobody wants that fate for them, but with such unnatural habits, the bears cannot be released elsewhere. They would either continue their dangerous ways in their new home or would find their way back to Hanover after being driven out by bears already living there. There is no other place a bear gone bad can go.
When one Hanover neighborhood decided to clean up its bear attractants and got serious about it, the bears stopped visiting, according to deputy fire chief Mike Hinsley, who has diligently scouted the situation. Bear-proof trash containers, taking in birdfeeders when bears emerge in spring, and confining access to compost are all sensible solutions. We strongly support a town-wide ordinance requiring responsible management of trash and other bear attractants.
In the meantime, we recognize that there is excellent bear habitat in our area – Indian Ridge, Velvet Rocks, and stream corridors – and that it’s only a matter of time before a new bear discovers the recently-vacated territory in Hanover. We hope this time the bear receives a different welcome, from a community that has united to help it remain wild and free.