CENTER HARBOR — Nicki Faro has worked as a police dispatcher for close to a decade, but always wanted to see what it was like on the other end of the radio. So, about a year and a half ago, she took a part-time job as an officer with the Center Harbor Police Department. That’s how she ended up rescuing three bear cubs over the weekend, and is hoping to find a fourth.
“Friday, I was doing my usual patrolling, I was going down Bartlett Hill, and I saw a small black animal on the side of the road,” she said. She happened to be going through her own neighborhood, and her first thought was that it was her neighbor’s cat. But when it crossed the road in front of her, she saw that it was a bear cub. So she waited. “I was expecting mom to come out,” she said. But no adult bear followed the cub, which proceeded to approach a house.
Faro spoke with the people who lived at the house, and they said that they had seen the cub the day before on their property, and again without its mother.
“I just knew that wasn’t right,” she said. Faro grew up in Bridgewater, in a family that hunts, and she is a hiker who also serves on the Pemi Valley Search and Rescue. So she called Fish and Game and asked that a conservation officer come to investigate.
Then, later that day, a call came in that confirmed her concerns. Someone up the road from where the cub was spotted had found a bear carcass. The animal was an adult female, and appeared to have been hit by a car and then crawled into the woods, where it died, probably a few weeks ago.
“Now knowing the bear was orphaned, I called Fish and Game to expedite,” Faro said. The cub was captured on Saturday and transported to a bear rehabilitation facility in Lyme. Then, later that day, when Faro was driving home from work, she was greeted by another fuzzy little orphan.
“Sure enough, the second cub was in my yard,” she said. She was able to catch that one, with help from another officer, and she brought that one to the bear center as well.
“After that, I got calls from the neighbors,” she said. Before the mother was killed, they had seen the bear family out and about. What’s more, they had taken videos of them. “She actually had four cubs with her,” she said.
Four is unusual, Faro said, but the mother was believed to be an older bear, and she has since learned that more veteran bear mothers sometimes have larger litters. “Moms who are older are a little bit wiser, they know where the food is good and they can produce more cubs,” she said.
So Faro set out a trap, baited it with doughnuts soaked in cream, and, at 9:30 on Monday morning, her neighbor called to say that the doughnuts were gone, and in their place, cub number three.
That’s three down, one to go for Faro, who is continuing to set traps and keep a watchful eye out for the final missing cub, so that they can all be reunited and cared for until they’re old enough to be released.
Faro is also asking those who wish to help to send a donation to The Kilham Bear Center, ℅ Ben Kilham, PO Box 37, Lyme NH, 03768.
Faro said she likes working as a police officer, especially in a small town where she gets to do more “community policing,” she said. But she didn’t expect the job would include bear trapping.
“I never thought I’d be rocking a baby bear in my arms. It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget,” she said.