Nashua, Merrimack top local list of confrontational bear sightings since 2012

NASHUA – Bear sightings have become a part of life in southern New Hampshire but some new data shows black bears are turning up in some uncommon places, and not all interactions are cute and fuzzy.

Nashua tops a list of six area communities, including Hollis, Hudson, Litchfield, Amherst and Merrimack, logging the most “confrontational” bear sightings with eight events since 2012, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bear sightings are considered confrontational when bears do not retreat and ignore human attempts to scare them away. The vast majority of confrontational bear sightings result from backyard bird feeders, which are considered a prime food source for many local bears, according to the USDA.

While some may be surprised that Nashua logs the area’s most bear sightings listed confrontational, Rick Olson, president of the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation, is not.

“The amount of bear sightings depends on the habitat,” Olson said. “Nashua is developed and fractured by highways and roads, and the development doesn’t contemplate the bear’s needs.”

Olson says that, as bear populations increase and development accelerates, confrontational bear sightings will likely be on the rise.

“The bears wouldn’t come around if people wouldn’t be so stupid,” he said.

Olson recommended that homeowners remove bird feeders between April 1 and Dec. 1 and shy away from leaving trash outside and unattended.

“Don’t even bother having your bird feeder out,” Olson said.

Behind Nashua, Merrimack tallied the second most confrontational bear sightings, with five events recorded by the USDA since 2012. Amherst counted three confrontational bear sightings since 2012, two of which were because of bird feeders left readily accessible to local black bears, according to the USDA.

Hudson and Litchfield are at the bottom of the list, with only one confrontational sighting for each town during the past two years, according to USDA numbers. Hollis also counts only one confrontational sighting since 2012, which occurred because a bear accessed a beehive.

A bird feeder was exactly the bait for a recent bear sighting on Main Dunstable Road in Nashua. Resident Silver Gray saw a black bear prodding between her yard and her neighbor’s. In this case, Gray said the bear ran off as soon as it was startled, making the sighting non-confrontational.

“I’ve always wanted to see a bear,” Gray said. “Maybe just not that close.”

Southeastern New Hampshire posts the lowest black-bear density in the state, according to the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, with an average of .06 black bears per square mile, or roughly one black bear per 17 square miles.

Consequently, bear hunting in the Nashua area is nearly non-existent with the closest kills reported in Mont Vernon, where one bear was hunted in 2012, and Lyndeborough, where four black bears were brought down last year.

Despite an unsettling amount of confrontational bear sightings in Nashua, Olson told residents not to worry. New Hampshire’s last fatal bear attack was in 1784.

“The bears are very shy of humans and dogs,” Olson said. “Around here, they’re just seen as oversized squirrels.”

Bradford Randall can be reached at 594-6557 or bhrandall@nashua Also, follow Randall on Twitter (@telegraph_brad).