Lyme NH – The NH Fish and Game Commission’s highest honor, the Ellis R. Hatch Junior Award of Excellence, was awarded to Ben Kilham, the founder of the Kilham Bear Center. Kilham founded the Center for orphaned bear cubs in 1993 and is now known as a worldwide expert on bear rehabilitation. The Kilham Bear Center serves as a model for wildlife rehabilitation centers throughout the United States and beyond. Kilham was recently asked to help the Chinese government with their National Panda Recovery Program.

Kilham became interested in bears when he encountered an injured and orphaned cub in 1992. Over 25 years of studying black bears has contributed greatly to Kilham’s knowledge of their behavior, and he has worked cooperatively with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department on research projects related to the ecology, reproductive success, survival, social behavior, and rehabilitative success of black bears. He also works to educate the public on how to co-exist with bears while promoting bear conservation worldwide.

The Kilham Bear Center initially worked with only one or two cubs annually, but by 2012 the Center received 30 cubs, including some from Vermont and Massachusetts. Ben is the only licensed bear rehabilitator in New Hampshire. Currently, the Kilham Center is caring for 63 cubs, most of which arrived this past fall.

Ben Kilham accepted the award with his wife, Debbie, and said, “We appreciate the award. I got started when Don Normandeau [former Director at NH Fish and Game] gave me my first permit. Jim Paine [former NH Fish and Game Commissioner and a veterinarian] gave me the opportunity to study bear behavior that wouldn’t have taken place otherwise. Fish and Game at the time was interested in home ranges and populations of bears, but my approach was to find out how they behave.”

Kilham is helped in his mission by his sister Phoebe and his wife Debbie.