Ben Kilham, New Hampshire's only licensed bear rehabilitator, found himself spending the winter with 27 lively and orphaned cubs which is a huge increase from the three to five he typically sees a year. This was caused by a bad year for feeding followed a good one for breeding.

Andy Timmins, the bear project leader for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, said officials were expecting more orphaned cubs than usual but were surprised at just how many turned up. "It was like nothing we've ever seen. A high year in the past was maybe, seven or eight bears," he said. "It was a very challenging year, for sure, and we're not done yet. I'm absolutely positive there will be more showing up this spring as a result of these conditions last year."

The population explosion of bear cubs can be traced to a two-year swing in the bears' food supply. Younger female bears often don't give birth during leaner years, but in 2011 with an abundance of beechnuts, berries and other food there was a baby boom of bears. However in 2012, the dry conditions meant food was scarce, and adult female bears were forced to venture into backyards for food and many ended up getting shot leaving the cubs behind. That's how 16 of the 27 cubs ended up with Ben Kilham this winter.

Ben Kilham, has been studying bears for more than 20 years, and has produced and appeared in numerous documentaries and written two books about bear social behavior. The second book, titled "Out on a Limb," is due out this summer. 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.

But for now he and his sister, Phoebe have their hands full with taking care of so many baby bears. The cubs are kept in an 8-acre enclosed forest behind his house until spring. Then he will work with the state Fish and Game Department to release them in remote locations. Normally, the bears hibernate all winter, but this group is wide awake. For a while, Kilham tried withholding food in hopes that the cubs would sleep, but that approach didn't work.

"They've managed to keep themselves awake," he said. "There's always somebody who stirs up somebody else, and pretty soon, everybody's up. They just roto-tilled the pen. It was obvious that they were seeking food, so we just gave up and started going back once a day feeding them." Thanks to an outpouring of donations after a local television publicized the situation, the Kilhams have plenty of dog food to keep everyone well-fed until spring.

"Staying awake all winter won't hurt the bears any, and if anything, they are better off having spent the winter in a large group. With just a few cubs, it was common for one to pace back and forth near the fence, but none of the current cubs are showing that kind of anxiety. They're just one big happy family, they roam around, play with each other. They are very, very happy as a big social unit," said Kilham.


Responses to "Explosion of orphaned baby bears keeps bear rehabilitator very busy (Photos -Video)"

  1. Morgana says:

    You are such a kind and generous people to take cara of these adorable babies. I hope they stay alive and get old and happy together.

  2. Unknown says:

    Great pictures, wonderful story.

  3. Sharon Thomas says:

    This is such a great thing and I'am very happy that there is people out there to do such a great thing.You and your sister are wonderful people to take on such a large group of cubs.Thank you so very much for caring about our wild bear cubs:

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think what you do is good and kind but how do ya make sure there they don't trust people?Not everyone is animal lover or like you that is the only thing that would worry me.Thanks MAY THERE ALWAYS BE ROOM FOR THE BEARS !

  5. Anonymous says:

    people like this man are the people who really change the world!

  6. Unknown says:

    this brought a smile on my face n a warm fuzzy feeling inside all through...god bless u guys for all u do...and may he protect these sweethearts always

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