Mink the bear was sent 100 miles away. She returned home anyway

Mink the bear's journey home

Last Updated Jun 27, 2019 8:10 PM EDT

Hanover, N.H. — The saga of Mink the bear is well known to TV viewers in Hanover, New Hampshire. It began three years ago after a resident fed Mink a doughnut every day.

Seeing humans as a food source, her cubs broke into someone's porch. The authorities decided to euthanize the entire family. But after a public outcry, their sentence was commuted.

Then last year, Mink and her four new cubs discovered bird-feeders. This time, Mink was relocated 100 miles away. In what can only be described as an "incredible journey," her tracking collar shows her long circuitous path that last month finally brought her back home.

CBS News visited the nearby Kilham Bear Center, now home to Mink's cubs and some younger ones who welcomed us with open paws.

"I knew she would return or try to return. A bear's home range is a bear's home," said bear expert Ben Kilham, who has been caring for and releasing orphaned bear cubs for more than 25 years.

Black bears, he says, are much smarter than people think.

"They recognize their own image," he said.

Kilham usually takes in about eight cubs a year. But this year it's more than 80 due to a severe food shortage that forced mama bears to search for food far away. Some never returned to their cubs.  The day we were there, two more starving cubs arrived.

As for Mink, this time she doesn't appear to be causing problems. Kilham says that's because people are finally following a simple rule.

"Don't leave food out for bears," he said. "When you feed a bear, it's like inviting your brother-in-law over for dinner and he stays for a month."

Let's face it, no one wants that.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.