1 of 3 cubs orphaned by famous bear’s death captured

FILE - In this April 13, 2018, file photo, Andrew Timmins, the bear project leader with the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, steps over a tranquilized female black bear as Nancy Comeau, right, of the USDA wildlife services, keeps a hand on the bear after it had been moved onto her side in Hanover, N.H. The bear, tagged and fitted with a tracking collar, was later relocated to far northern New Hampshire. But in May 2019, the bear returned to her home turf in Hanover. In spring 2020, the bear is preparing to emerge from hibernation in her den with three new cubs. (Jennifer Hauck/The Valley News via AP, File)

LEBANON, N.H. (AP) — One of three black bear cubs orphaned by the recent death of their famous mother was captured Monday morning and will be taken to a rehabilitation center for the winter.

Officials have been searching for the cubs since Tuesday, when the mother bear known as Mink was found dead. She had gained fame when New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu spared her life in 2017 and when she traveled thousands of miles in a looping route through Vermont and New Hampshire to return to her home territory after being relocated to nearly the Canadian border.

Andrew Timmins, bear project leader for New Hampshire’s Fish and Game Department, said the male cub was captured near Route 10 in West Lebanon.

“We’re getting reports of the other two being in the area,” he said. “The reporting has been very helpful, and I think we’ll continue to be successful.”

Although officials initially thought Mink had been hit by a car, a necropsy performed Thursday at the Kilham Bear Center in Lyme suggested she died of natural causes. Ben Kilham told the Valley News the procedure also revealed that the bear, previously thought to be in her teens, was between 20 and 30 years old.

Kilham will care for the 8-month-old cub over the winter and release it in the spring. Its siblings were believed to have been spotted off Route 120 near the Hanover-Lebanon line Saturday, and authorities are hopeful they are traveling back to their den and stomping grounds near the Mink Brook Nature Preserve.

Mink had been set to be euthanized, along with three of her earlier offspring, in 2017 after repeated problems with them feeding from trash and bird feeders culminated in two bears entering a home in Hanover. Sununu instead ordered them to be moved to far northern New Hampshire. One of the yearlings was killed within weeks by a hunter in Quebec, Canada.

Mink wasn’t captured then because she left town to mate and later returned with four cubs in 2018. She was fitted with a tracking collar in June of that year and moved about 120 miles (193 kilometers) north, but returned to the Hanover area in 2019.