Bear sightings in Peterborough

  • This black bear visited the Robbe Farm Road backyard of photographer Steve Lipofsky in Peterborough. Photo by www.lipofsky.com

  • Bears are common visitors to Steve Lipofsky's Robbe Farm Road residence, where he's seen at least one a year since he bought the house. Steve Lipofsky—www.lipofsky.com

  • Bears are common visitors to Steve Lipofsky's Robbe Farm Road residence, where he's seen at least one a year since he bought the house. Steve Lipofsky—www.lipofsky.com

  • Bears are common visitors to Steve Lipofsky's Robbe Farm Road residence, where he's seen at least one a year since he bought the house. Steve Lipofsky—www.lipofsky.com

  • Bears are common visitors to Steve Lipofsky's Robbe Farm Road residence, where he's seen at least one a year since he bought the house. PHOTOS BY lipofsky.com

  • A bear on the bike path in Peterborough. Photo by Dan Fox—

  • A bear visits the Tarbell Road yard of Lynn Snow on April 30. Lynn Snow—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, May 24, 2018 8:36AM

The bears are back, with a slew of sightings in Peterborough.

May has been an active month for the state’s population of 5,000 bears, likely due to the late spring this year, Rob Calvert, a New Hampshire Fish and Game biologist and wildlife damage specialist, said Tuesday.

While springtime brings a boom in bear sightings as they come out of hibernation, the population in the state remains about the same, Calvert said. He added, those living in the southern belt of New Hampshire many be seeing more bears due to the growth of the bear population in Massachusetts.

Dan Fox of Peterborough said he was cycling along the bike path next to Summer Street around 3 p.m. Monday when he spotted a furry black animal up ahead on the path about 50 feet away.

“I thought it was somebody’s big black dog or something until I saw it moving,” Fox said, “and then I thought ‘That’s no dog!’”

In fact, it was a juvenile bear, not much bigger than a Rottweiler.

“My first thought was it’s not that big and its mother must be somewhere nearby,” Fox said, “but also, what a beautiful animal.”

Fox said he was a bit concerned that he might be between a mother and her cub, but as ConVal’s JV boys’ lacrosse coach, he was prepared.

“I wasn’t scared because I had my lacrosse stick with me, so I probably could have fought it off if it wanted to rumble,” Fox said.

Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. Fox pulled out his phone to take a picture and then the bear scampered away as a car drove by on Summer Street.

“It was really cool to see, it makes me happy to see wildlife. But it made me worried for the bear since it was the middle of the day and it might scare people. But it was a small bear, he wasn’t hurting anyone, just maybe a little confused by his surroundings.”

Fox isn’t the only Peterborough resident to recently encounter a black bear.

Ledger-Transcript reporter Abby Kessler was on her way home on Four Winds Farm Road in Peterborough last week, when she saw two black animals crossing the road. At first, she thought they were dogs.

“I didn’t think much of it at first. My driveway was in view, and I almost pulled right in, but decided to slow down and take a closer look at the animals that were standing in the road about 50 feet away. On second glance, it was clear that I was looking at two black bears,” Kessler said.

Kessler stayed in her Volkswagon Passat, but tried to get a closer look at the animals.

“There was a moment or two when the two animals and I made eye contact. They stopped walking and looked at me,” she said. But the moment was fleeting, and the bears then made their way into the woods.

“I pulled into a neighbor’s driveway and watched flashes of black move through the wooded area until I couldn’t see them any longer,” Kessler said. “My roommate has told me several times that he has heard a big animal rustling around in the backyard late at night. Now, we know what is moving around in the dark.”

Backyard visitors are common in Steve Lipofsky’s yard – he’s seen deer, fox, raccoon, woodchucks, and at least once a year, black bear.

“I have a whole lot of bear pictures. They just sit out there and pose for me,” said Lipofsky, a photographer who lives on Robbe Farm Road.

This year’s visitor, whom Lipofsky spotted coming in looking for a snack from his bird feeder, seems to be a new one, he said, judging from its size, which he estimated to be about 350 pounds.

“I went to slide the door open and he just ambled off,” said Lipofsky. “I think this guy is not as acclimated to humans as some of these other bears are. I don’t think he’s a gregarious bear.”

His backyard visitors don’t make him nervous at all, said Lipofsky, but if he gets a visitor coming back looking for food, he does take in his feeder, because as he put it, “I don’t want the bear to get arrested.”

Lynn Snow of Tarbell Road said she has seen and photographed many bears in her yard since moving to her home in 2001. On April 30 she captured a large bear on video in her yard. Snow added she works to keep her yard free of bear attractants. 

“Definitely no bird feeders, no suet. Which is unfortunate because I love having the birds visit. But the bears make it impossible. It's too dangerous for us and for them. They should never feel comfortable around people,” Snow said. 

Bears that become comfortable around people and begin to see populated areas as a source of food are what Fish and Game refer to as nuisance bears. Current N.H. Fish and Game policy is to catch and euthanize nuisance bears.

There are exceptions, last year Gov. Chris Sununu gave a pardon to a mama bear and her three cubs, who had moved into and got cozy in a Hanover neighborhood near Dartmouth College. After the bears started entering homes in search of food Fish and Game moved in to capture them. As a result of Sununu intervening, the bears were relocated to the North Country instead of being killed.

Nuisance bears are more of an issue in the northern regions of the state, Calvert said, where there’s a bigger tourist trade and some bears have taught themselves how to enter cars or even homes to find an easy meal. 

“They’re smart, lazy and always hungry,” Calvert said. “If you let your guard down and have food available, you’ll have that bear visiting again. They’re not the aggressive creature people want to paint them as, but they’re opportunistically smart.”

Bears can be attracted to lawns for grazing opportunities such as dandelions and fiddlehead ferns, said Calvert, but the biggest attraction is birdfeeders. Fish and Game recommends bringing in feeders by April 1, and not putting them out again until bears are hibernating.

Bears are also attracted to other food sources, such as dirty grease pans on grills, pet food, trash, and backyard husbandries like bees and chickens. 

The best way to deter bears, said Calvert, is to not give them any reason to come around in the first place, by securing any potential food sources. 

“If we could get people to take birdfeeders in and dumpster companies to put metal tops on their dumpsters, we would eliminate 75 percent of our bear complaints,” said Calvert. 

Fish and Game receives 400 to 500 bear complaints each year, which can spike during a drought when food sources such as blackberries and raspberries are scarce, Calvert said. 

Don’t leave out food sources and protect livestock and beehives with an electric fence, which will deter bears, Calvert said. He added people can use a bear’s sense of smell against them, by using mothballs in a sock to deter them from digging in your trashcan. They can also be scared off with noisemakers. And never leave out food intentionally.

“There’s a saying,” said Calvert. “A fed bear is a dead bear. A fed bear is the one that will tend to spin into that next level and potentially have to be destroyed.”


Ben Conant, Meghan Pierce and Abby Kessler contributed to this report.