Vermont wildlife officials say more bears are turning up around the region in poor health. We talked those tasked with getting the bears ready to return to the wild.
Soft cries, sharp claws and full coats: Four bear cubs are on the mend at a rehabilitation facility in Lyme, New Hampshire.
"These cubs can't hibernate because they don't have enough fat. And to survive they use up all their fat and all their muscle and then they can't move," said Ben Kilham, bear rehabilitator.
Ben and his sister Phoebe have been working with abandoned and malnourished bears for two decades. Currently, their rehab center, which includes 8 acres of enclosed woods, has 18 black bears.
"My parents had a lot of animals and a lot of interest in nature, so we got started working with animals very young," said Phoebe.
According to Fish and Wildlife officials, more and more bears are turning up in backyards in need of immediate care. One bear was found a week ago in Guildhall in dire condition. She is now getting milk at the Kilham facility and is expected to make a full recovery.
"These animals come in so sad. It doesn't take much. These starved yearlings, all they need is a warm bed and fluids and food and they are on their way again," said Ben.
"This year we have an uptick due to a high birth cub year and a low of fall crops. They depend on nuts and when those aren't available," said Scott Darling, Vt. Fish and Wildlife.
Like the bears being nursed back to health, the region's black bear population has also grown for the last 15-20 years. In the 1990s, Vermont shortened the hunting season, which made a big impact. Currently, in the Green Mountains alone there are about 5,500.
"We're making sure that anyone who sees a bear that seems to be alone and young bear that seems to be hanging out in the area to contact their warden immediately. They are trained to make the observation," said Darling.
One bear was found under a porch in the Wardsboro area. It, too, will be released once it is ready. But that's a call made by the experts. The public is not welcome to visit these bears and their interaction with humans is limited.
"They take care of themselves. We don't have to entertain the bears. They are best out in the wild with other bears," said Ben.
They are wild bears getting a fresh start before they can go back to their permanent home.
If you would like to learn more about the Kilham facility or donate to a bear rehab fund, visit: http://www.benkilham.com/
PO Box 4508