Black Bear Orphans and the Man who Reads Their Minds

Note: This story was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station and by KPIP in Missouri. It is also featured on
You’re about to hear a story about the bear whisperer of Lyme New Hampshire, Ben Kilham, and the abandoned black bear cubs he has rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Some of these cubs have formed such strong bonds with Ben, that even when they’re fully grown, they still treat him as a member of the family, so to speak, and allow him special access to their bear secrets and behavior. And on occasion, if I promise to be quiet, and obey the rules, I get to tag along –

This video of Squirty and Ben in the clearing is a rather noisy appetizer.
Click here: (17 minutes) for the story.

Ben Kilham is one of the foremost black bear researchers and rehabilitators in the country, and here he is, with one of his star bears, Squirty, now 17 years old. He took care of her and her siblings after they were separated from their mother during a logging operation that had disturbed her den. She, along with many other orphaned or abandoned cubs, has taught Ben the characteristics of black bear behavior, which share some surprising similarities to our own species. For one thing, once thought to be solitary, Ben has discovered that they are often quite social!

Photo by Ben Kilham
Ben’s featured in several nature documentaries, and he is also the author of two books — Among the Bears: Raising Orphaned Cubs in the Wild, and Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me About Intelligence and Intuition, with a foreward by Temple Grandin, which was just released this fall. ThoughtCast has also interviewed Ben’s sister and colleague, Phoebe, and the interview, accompanied by a slide show of their bear cubs, was posted on New Hampshire Public Radio’s website this spring, and can be seen here.

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2 Responses to Black Bear Orphans and the Man who Reads Their Minds

  1. Mike Rosell May 19, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

    Hi Jenny,

    It is a really great story. I would be scared to get nipped by any bear including squirty. I think I will watch bears from a far. Really cute and I do love the idea of playing with all the animals in the world myself.

    I am happy there are people and places that protect some of those wonderful bears. Especially since they take so long to eat. They need nice quite out of the way cafés in the wild (or our yards) where they can relax and eat and take care of their young.

    Best wishes,

  2. Jessica Higham September 18, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    Hi Jenny, What a joy to see how Squirty and Ben interact.


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