CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire is seeing a high number of bear shootings by property owners this year, and one biologist is blaming that on the growing popularity of backyard chicken farming.

Fish and Game Bear Biologist Andrew Timmins said in June alone, homeowners shot and killed at least 12 bears, usually the state’s annual average total.

"We’re easily at 15 now, and we still have two more full months of what we consider bear conflict season," Timmins told the Concord Monitor (http://bit.ly/VmwBCg).

About 75 percent of the bears shot and killed so far this year were getting into coops when they were shot by the owners. The number of complaints about bear-chicken conflicts has dramatically increased over the last decade, from a low of 12 in 2001 to a high of 127 in 2012.

"It’s pretty eye-opening," Timmins said. "These are the ones we have documented -- not everybody calls."

Jason Ludwick, owner of Coops for a Cause based in Meredith, said the bears are drawn to the chicken feed.

"Bears can smell that a mile away, just like they can a bird feeder," Ludwick said. "You don’t want chicken feed outside your pen."

And Timmins said the bears attracted by the feed will kill and eat the chickens.

Officials are encouraging chicken farmers to install electric fences around their coops and to keep feed in a secure location, like a garage.

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Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.cmonitor.com