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The Bear Whisperer: Man Is Surrogate Mother To 27 Cubs

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Feb. 9 2013, Published 5:55 p.m. ET

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For those moms struggling to get their babies to sleep, spare a thought for Ben Kilham.

The 60-year-old New Hampshire man is trying to get 27 orphan bear cubs to sleep throughout the winter, with limited success.

Known as the area’s “bear rehabilitator,” every year for the last two decades he has acted a surrogate mom to about five to six bear cubs orphaned during hunting season.

He gets down on all fours, shows them how to hunt for food and feeds them.

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In previous years his food bill was minimal because the half a dozen cubs he cared for at a time usually sleep through the winter.

This year is different. Due to the scarcity of fruit and nuts last summer many female bears went into chicken coops, beehives and farmyards in search of food. As a result a record number were shot and their orphans have been brought to Kilham.

Now he’s struggling to get the cubs to sleep throughout the winter.

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“I suspect it’s like having a bunch of children,” he says.  “One wants to keep playing and he keeps the others up.

“Usually they sleep through to the spring.”

The restless cubs are not the only problem. Kilham also faces a rising food bill.

According to WCVB TV, he has received donations from local residents and one $2,500 grant from the New Hampshire Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

But Kilham estimates it will cost him $1,000 per cub to get them through to June.

He says: “Some nights a lot of bears show up. They seem to come as much for the social interactions with each other as for the food.”

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