Jul 9, 2015 7:28 PM
LYME - After months of rehabilitation, an orphaned black bear returns to the N.H. wild on a sunny June day.
The cub may not have been left to for itself in the first place, but wildlife officials say the fad of raising chickens has put mother bears at risk of dying.
"We've really seen a boom in the number of people raising backyard chickens,"said Andy Timmins, New Hampshire's bear project leader. "Unfortunately, most of those coops are not protected from wildlife."
Hungry mother bears have noticed the security breach. They often show up at coops looking for food. In many cases, owners looking to protect their chickens shoot and kill the bears.
"I called 911 and was like there's a bear eating my chicken what do I do?,"said Keith Devoe of Bridgewater as he recalled an encounter with a mother bear breaking into his family's chicken coop.
Devoe said he fired a gun in the air and eventually she left the property with cubs in tow.
"We haven't seen her since,"said Devoe. "We don't know if she came back or if she hasn't, but she's stayed away so far."
The likely reason? After the close encounter, N.H. Fish and Game came out and loaned Devoe an electric fence for his chicken coop. It is part of a collaborative program with the federal government aimed at turning chicken coop owners on to electric fences when it comes to keeping bears away.
"We put it out, show them that it's effective, and then hope that they'll make the investment,"said Timmins of the loan program.
After he returns the fence in about a month, Devoe plans on making the $200 investment.
"It's a simple fix to a very irritating problem."
According to Timmins the idea has gained ground with coop owners.
"We've actually stabilized bear complaints in the state in recent years, and I think it's because that program."
Keeping bears out, chickens in their coops, and both safe.
If you have an issue with bears at your chicken coop call NHFG or USDA Wildlife Services at (603) 223-6832.
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