By Daymond Steer
JACKSON — New Hampshire Fish and Game officials this week did an about-face on their previous announcement that they would not try to find the four orphaned black bear cubs whose mother was shot by a hunter last month.
The bear family, seen frequently near the town over the course of the summer, was affectionately known as the Jackson Five.
While the sow and her cubs became popular with residents and visitors in Jackson, the female also had been identified as a nuisance bear who had started breaking into homes looking for food because she had become habituated to people.
Of the cubs, which are estimated to weigh between 30 and 50 pounds, state Fish and Game Biologist Andrew Timmins said: "We are going to try and scoop them up this week. That is our priority."
Along with Fish and Game, members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wild Live Services New Hampshire will also be seeking the young bears.
Timmins said the effort is being made because "people simply won't leave them alone."
Authorities are afraid that if the bears grow up being fed by humans, they will tart showing the same bad behaviors their mother did.
The plan is to capture the bears and move them to Ben Kilham's bear enclosure in Lyme, a town on the west side of the state just north of Hanover.
According to Timmins, Kilham has released about 130 bear cubs over the past 30 years.
The plan is for the cubs to hibernate in Lyme. In the spring, they will be released into the wild.
Timmins said the mother bear would have "kicked the cubs out" in springtime anyway.
Timmins believes the siblings are physically healthy and their chances of survival are great. He said they are staying together.
Efforts to track them down started on Monday, though Timmons said finding the bears will be easier than actually catching them. They will either be trapped in cage traps or pulled out of trees (after being tranquilized), he said.
He said that while Fish and Game does encourage hunters not to kill mother bears with cubs, the mother bear was legally shot.
He took the opportunity to remind people not to feed bears. "We have to keep our bears wild in New Hampshire," he said.
The mother bear, who was believed to be between 6 and 8 years old, had never shown interest in ransacking homes for food until this year, according to Timmins, and this occurred despite an abundance of natural food such as apples and acorns being available this season.
"I can only surmise people in Jackson were encouraging the bear by feeding it," he said.
Lauren Orsini, animal control officer for Jackson, said she encountered the mother bear this summer breaking into a home and called it "the scariest encounter she ever had with a bear."
Anyone with leads on the cubs' location can contact Timmins' office at 788-3164 or Orsini at 986-0115.