that no one has known before.
Kilham’s insight into bear behav- ior isn’t just interesting trivia. It’ll help people reduce their conflicts with this intelligent and amazing animal.
“As we learn more about bear behavior, we better understand these bear/human conflicts,” Kilham said. “We begin to learn that it’s not a nuisance bear at all. It’s the way people are leaving food around and interacting with bears.”
You’ve probably already heard of Ben Kilham. The Lyme resident has been featured in two National Geographic TV specials, NBC Dateline, CBS Coast to Coast, New Hampshire Crossroads, Field and Stream magazine, the Boston Globe and many others.
The attention comes from Kilham’s experiences over the past few years raising and releasing two dozen cubs or yearlings that were orphaned or starving. He raises the bears, releases them back to the wild (sometimes with radio-telemetry collars) and in the process learns as much about their behavior as he can.
Kilham is specially licensed by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to do this research.
His project, going on nine years now, evolved from the Kilham family’s habit of taking all sorts of injured and orphaned wildlife into their 1812 Federal-style house in Lyme village. The critters included ravens, crows, foxes, woodchucks, beavers, porcupines, raccoons; you name it...but no bears.
Kilham’s father, Lawrence Kilham, had a permit to raise these animals – and he learned a lot from them. The elder Kilham, who died last September, was a prominent microbi- ologist at Dartmouth Medical School and an accomplished ornithologist who authored many articles and books on birds and nature.
Kilham, who stands 6 feet, 5 inches and weighs 250 pounds, somewhat assumes the role of a bear himself as he raises orphaned cubs or starving yearlings. By roughhousing with bears, Kilham gains their trust and respect.
JE OME OBINSON PHOTO
Hunter and Gunsmith
After attending the University of New Hampshire and earning a degree in wildlife management (despite the challenges of dyslexia), Ben Kilham worked as a gunsmith throughout the Northeast for several major firearms manufacturers. He has a U.S. patent for a safety mechanism for a pistol and has established a reputation as a specialist in pistols and restoring antique guns.
Kilham eventually returned to the family home in the Connecticut River Valley town of Lyme, where he continues his gunsmith business and enjoys hunting deer and upland game birds.
(Incidentally, Kilham’s gunsmith business and passion for hunting is often left out of the articles and TV features about him. In fact, one publisher rejected Kilham’s own book idea, saying the public wouldn’t be able to reconcile his hunting and gunsmith business with his bear research.)
household’s interest in taking in wayward wildlife...and studying the creatures’ habits.
“I was interested in the same type of research that my father had done, but I was more interested in carni- vores, like coyotes and fishers,” Kilham said. “I wanted to follow them through their whole life cycle. Researchers tend to work with just adult animals.”
In 1992, Kilham ended up with two emaciated bear cubs – only 4 pounds in mid-April. He wanted to raise and observe them, then release them back to the wild.
“I told Dr. Normandeau (Fish and Game’s executive director at the time) that I was going to make them independent animals, rather than dependent on humans, and that I would document the whole process,” Kilham said.
By the time the cubs were eight months old, Kilham invited Eric Orff (Fish and Game wildlife biologist) to see the progress.
“I got to observe up close and
Kilham never shook his
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