How Did One Man End Up Caring for 27 Orphaned Bear Cubs?

A New Hampshire man is sheltering more than his fair share of animals—and they're always hungry.
The Bear Hill Conservancy is home to 27 orphaned bear cubs this winter season. (Photo: Lee Cates/Getty Images)
Feb 2, 2013· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

For most parents, taking care of 27 children who want to stay up and party all night is the stuff of nightmares. For Ben Kilham, it’s his life’s work.

Kilham is a wildlife rehabilitator who runs the Bear Hill Conservancy in the woods of New Hampshire. Every winter, he provides safe, natural shelter for three to five orphaned bear cubs, all of which hibernate soundly through the year’s coldest months. However, this year he’s giving a home to 27 cubs, and they won’t go to sleep—ever.

Kilham told CBS News in Boston, “This year the dynamics are different. They seem to be stimulating each other and the whole gang stayed up this winter. We tried to withhold food from them and force them into hibernation, but that didn’t work; they were just digging and searching for food.”

Where did these little ones come from? According to Kilham, the answer lies with last year’s early spring. North American black bears may be carnivorous, but most of their diet consists of grasses, shoots and lush vegetation. The unseasonably warm weather meant those food sources dried up, forcing mother bears to raid chicken coops and beehives for sustenance. In the process, many were shot by land owners, leaving a small army of cubs to fend for themselves.

Now under Kilham’s care, the tiny beasts keep each other riled up, burning more calories than they normally would, stoking their appetites with such consistency that the conservancy can barely cover the cost of their food.

If it seems like feeding a human child costs an arm and a leg, feeding 27 bear cubs is an entirely different ballgame. Though they’re eating a simple diet of dog kibble, Kilham estimates it will take $1,000 per cub to keep them full from now until spring. The conservancy receives donations and grants, but those funds don’t come close to matching the $27,000 it will cost to keep these bears satiated.

Kilham is hoping that the public will pitch in with monetary donations that will allow his boarders to stay well-nourished.

Local news station WMUR reports that the Bear Hill Conservancy has been rehabilitating bears for over 20 years. Kilham’s operation affords the bears the opportunity to retain their wilderness habits without exposing them to dangers they may not be ready to handle—in the case of these cubs, that danger is being too young to face life in the wild without their mothers. That will change once they reach 18 months old, at which point, they’ll be released back into their natural habitats.

While it may have been human hands that caused these cubs to become orphans, it will be Kilham who makes sure they live long and healthy lives.

Will you be donating money to the Bear Hill Conservancy? Let us know in the Comments.