NH Fish and Game bear leader says feeding the wild animals is 'selfish'
CONCORD — The New Hampshire Fish and Game bear leader believes people that feed the wild animals are being selfish.
Andrew Timmins, Wildlife Biologist II and Bear Project Leader of the New Hampshire Fish and Game, remains opposed to feeding bears even though one Stoddard residents believes he did "a great public service" to the state by committing the illegal act.
Recently, Fish and Game charged Richard Whitney, 71, and his wife Sandra Sherman, 69, for intentionally feeding bears on their 81-acre property after the department received multiple reports of nuisance bears in the area of their Stoddard home.
"For me, feeding bears is selfish because what you're doing is pulling bears into your yard so you can watch them," Timmins said.
Timmins understands that some people like to watch wild bears but feels they should view them in a natural setting as opposed to an artificial setting.
However, Whitney believes diversionary feeding — people providing food to bears in carefully selected locations within a forest, generally near a source of water, as food outdoors becomes scarce — could help boost ecotourism in the state. By feeding the bears in the same location, a sanctuary could be created for the public to visit.
"Why should tourists spend thousands of dollars to view animals in the wild in Alaska and Africa — when they could much more easily travel to New Hampshire and spend their money here?" Whitney asked.
Whitney said he brought the idea up to Fish and Game, but Timmins said Whitney never mentioned it to him as the bear leader for the department. Timmins has heard of diversionary feeding being used to pull bears away from a particular area but feels that real concerns stem from any type of bear feedings.
An 81-acre property is not large enough for bears to roam around as females' homes tend to range around 10 square miles and males' homes tend to range 50 to 100 square miles, Timmins said. Once the bears get used to eating food given from humans, they begin to travel beyond the area where the food is, bringing a concern to the public as they become conditioned to being fed, Timmins said.
Feeding bears can cause problems with the reproduction of bears because the wild animals reproduce faster with a larger food source around, Timmins said. The expansion of bears could lead to issues as they begin to fight over the food source.
Diseases also can spread quicker throughout the bear population if they all congregate to the same spot for eating, Timmins said.
Fish and Game urges that the public does not intentionally or unintentionally — through bird feeders, trash, etc. — feed the bears, as this could "enhance the likelihood of property damage, bear/human conflicts, or possibly result in bear behavior that leads to their removal," the Fish and Game website reads.
Those wanting to view bears in their natural habit may do so as long as they keep a safe distance. Timmins said the bears are not aggressive, but people should be mindful that they are wild animals.
Through the study of the bears' biology and what they eat, Timmins can recommend the best spots to locate a bear. Right now, bears can be seen near Cannon Mountain munching on green vegetation.