When bears make news in New Hampshire, the first person media outlets go looking for is Andy Timmins. That’s because as a biologist for the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, Timmins has been the state’s bear project leader for 14 years.
Timmins’ name may also sound familiar to SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members, as his mother Maureen is a longtime active Chapter 1 member and his sister, Annemarie, previously covered the State House for the Concord Monitor. But as the bear project leader, Timmins is very busy this time of year and when bears show up in neighborhoods, his name tends to turn up in newspapers.
Working for Fish and Game was a pretty natural fit for Timmins, who grew up here hunting and fishing.
“I went to college and didn’t know what I wanted to do, but was leaning toward the biology side of things,” Timmins said. “When I got to UNH, I discovered they had a program and I eventually transferred in. Ultimately, I got a Bachelor of Science then a Masters in wildlife management.”
Timmins said the job comes with its frustrations trying to minimize conflicts between people and bears.
“This time of year, what’s primarily happening during the summer months is that bears are being attracted to residential areas,” said Timmins, an SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member. “We’re trying to maintain the bear population in an ever-expanding human population. People’s tolerance to wildlife varies across the board, so we’re trying to teach people to co-exist with these animals.”
Timmins said that any city or town in the state is going to have a bear in it, and while the animals are highly adaptable to humans, we’re not as adaptable to them.
“This time of year, I’m spending a lot of time making site visits and working with the public to educate them on bear behavior and minimize conflicts.”
With a recent trend in well-meaning people picking up young, seemingly abandoned wildlife, Timmins said they recommend a hands-off approach.
“Our response is not to pick up young wildlife, to let nature do its thing,” he said. “We don’t want the public picking these animals up, particularly if the mother could come back. With bear cubs, we like to give them time.”
He said there are clues that cubs have in fact been orphaned, such as if they’re by themselves day after day. Another clue is if they’re covered in ticks.
“Our first line of response is: don’t pick them up,” he said. “Let them be wild and let the mom come back. If it’s clear they’ve become orphaned, then we pick them up and bring them to a rehabilitator.”
You can find tips to help keep our state’s bear and human populations safe on Fish and Game’s website.
You can check out a great feature on Timmins from NHPR last month here.