EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

May 27, 2012

More bear sightings reported in NH, but population is stable

New Hampshire officials are receiving more reports of roaming bears than usual.

"Yes, we're seeing an increase in sightings," said Andrew Timmins, state Fish and Game's bear expert.

Salem police issued a warning to the public last week after residents of the neighborhood that includes North Salem Elementary School reported bears on the loose.

"The bear sightings have been specifically seen in the Coventry Road neighborhood," police said.

This is typically a busy time of year for bears. Bears become active in the spring as they emerge from hibernation and start looking for food, Timmins said.

But there are more sightings than usual.

Timmins said he suspects contributing factors are people getting too casual about garbage management, leaving bird feeders up too long and more intentional feeding of bears by wildlife enthusiasts.

The state's bear population is estimated at 5,000, a pretty stable number. During the last bear hunting season, 418 bears were taken statewide.

There are only black bears in the wild of the Granite State. Males can weigh as much as 250 pounds; females tip the scales around 125 to 150 pounds.

Across Southern New Hampshire, officials are likely to get reports of 20 to 40 sightings in a given year. Up in the North Country, that number swells to 200 or 300.

In the northern part of the state, officials said, they field fewer reports than they might because people there are used to seeing bears and don't always feel the need to call the police.

Timmins speculates Salem isn't being overrun with bears.

"Here's my gut take on that. I bet they are dealing with one or two animals that are being persistent," Timmins said.

There's no need for panic if a student is walking back and forth to North Salem Elementary, he said.

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