Bear Behavior

Ben Kilham

July 14, 2022  7pm

Bear cubrsz.jpg

Renowned wildlife biologist, Ben Kilham, returns to our Park to talk about his firsthand experience studying black bear behavior. For more than 25 years Ben has been raising and rehabbing orphaned, injured and abandoned cubs with the goal of reintroducing them to the wild. He has successfully accomplished this with over 300 bear cubs from the KIlham Bear Center in Lyme, NH.

Careful observation, study and close interaction with black bears has resulted in Ben’s amassing a knowledge of this unique creature and its behavior that is perhaps without parallel.  For example, Ben’s discovery that the black bear demonstrates  a social behavior called  “altruistic reciprocity”  was groundbreaking. Ben found that black bears exhibit a cooperation with both kin and strangers by sharing food resources within their habitat.  In a winter where beech nuts are plentiful in one location of the bear’s territory and acorns are not, bears from the oak forest are allowed to partake of beech nuts in the adjoining territory. In a subsequent winter, when acorns are abundant, the situation may be reversed. It might be argued that the only other creatures that exhibit this behavior are humans. Ben’s presentation and his photos, as always, are sure to educate and fascinate.

Ben Kilham Bio: PhD. Environmental Sciences, Drexel University, 2015 B.S., Wildlife Biology, University of New Hampshire, 1974.  Author of: Among the Bears, Raising Orphan Cubs in the Wild  & Out on a Limb, and What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition.

This event is made possible by a generous donation from the Beliveau family in memory of Joe Beliveau.


Event Report

Ben Kilham

July 14, 2022  7pm


Ben returned to the park to talk about black bear behavior especially emphasizing the social nature of this animal.


A full house was on hand eagerly awaiting the start of the program. We had about 150 chairs set up and by the time the program started we needed a few more.


Brett Beliveau provided a few opening remarks. The Beliveau family sponsored this event in memory of Brett's father, Joe Beliveau. The Beliveau family also sponsor free tours of the summit house during the last week of June each year.  Thank you.


Ben's talk was a wealth of information on bear behavior. He interspersed fascinating clips of the bears among his wonderful slides to graphically illustrate the behavior he was highlighting.

For example, he talked about, like humans, cubs require a long period of time for their nurturing - about 18 months. During that time, their mother is ever watchful and protective - the little cubs oftentimes oblivious to danger, instead, deeply involved with exploring, playing and learning. The clip that Ben played to illustrate that behavior showed it perfectly.

Other clips were equally impressive such as showing a "bluff charge" or a "female chasing away a male" from her territory.


In addition to his lectures, Ben is well known for his insightful books on black bears.

Some other points:

  • The Kilham Bear Center became a non-profit organization in 2018

  • They have cared for and released over 400 bears into the wild

  • Recently they were involved with 84 cubs in one year

  • His bear "Squirty" has now raised 23 cubs and is 26 years old

  • Like humans, bears are often harder on their own then they are with strangers

  • Ben has discovered a characteristic of their behavior called "altruistic reciprocity"

  • Bears are omnivorous but about 85 % of their diet is plant based. 

  • Ben has worked as a consultant for China's panda program where they attempt to duplicate his techniques of placing young bears into the wild

And much, much more....


Ben's contact information is shown in the above slide.

When you go to Ben Kilham's website, make sure that you visit his link to his Instagram page.  There are not only excellent and charming photos of the bears but there are also many fascinating videos of the bears in action. 


Last week we had two fancy corvettes at our program. This week it was a vintage BMW that one of our patrons used to make her getaway. She said that this car has been her "girl" for 25 years.


Not everyone was in a hurry to leave, though.  It was a beautiful evening at the park. Here, two of our Lancaster ladies, WSPA Board member, Susie Short, and proprietor of the former Sullivan Drug Store, Pidy Rochefort, are enjoying the views and watching the crowd depart.


We've only been able to give a glimpse of the program and the evening in this report.  What Ben Kilham and his center do is remarkable and an inspiration. He speaks quite often around the area so if you weren't able to get to this program, go to his website and check out his next events. And, don't forget to view those videos on his Instagram page.

Thank you once again, Ben, for providing our appreciative audience another of your enlightening talks at Weeks State Park.  We hope you can come back soon.