May 28, 2015 3:37 PM

Rescued orphaned black bears prepare to go back into the wild

LYME - Down a dirt road in Lyme, orphaned black bears outnumber the humans.

For more than two decades, Ben Kilham and his sister, Phoebe, have taken in cubs who have lost their moms and helped them find their footing again.

"They need to be healthy and fat before you release them," said Ben Kilham, an independent wildlife biologist.

Right now 23 cubs call the property home. All have different stories on how they arrived here, but many share a common thread.

"They all come as the result of man," Ben Kilham said. "There's automobile accidents, logging problems, people shoot mothers at chicken coops. With the exception of abandonment cubs. First time moms often don't have enough milk to raise their cubs. They give birth, and then they run out of milk."

Some of the bears have a longer road to recovery. Two of them are significantly smaller than the rest. They were found starving in the wilderness.

"Sometimes they get a vanilla wafer - the big cubs don't get those," said Phoebe Kilham, explaining the special attention given to the duo.

A pile of mulch now sits on the Kilham's property to freshen up the pen for the next round of orphaned cubs.

In a few weeks, the nearly two dozen bears will return to the wild.

"We don't feel sad about empty nests," Ben Kilham said.

Instead, there is a sense of happiness to see the animals latch on to another chance at life.

The Kilhams run the rehab program completely off donations.

Their property is not open to the public in order to limit the contact the bears have with people.


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