In the financial world, bears are not welcome visitors. But to pension consultant Debbie Kilham, they're family.
Ms. Kilham, manager for employee benefit services at Tyler, Simms & St. Sauveur, a Lebanon, N.H., accounting firm, has lived with bears for 10 years. Her husband, Benjamin Kilham, is a wildlife researcher who wrote "Among the Bears: Raising Orphan Cubs in the Wild," a book that chronicles his work rehabilitating and raising malnourished or abandoned bears so they can return to the wild. He was featured in the July 22 issue of People magazine and was a recent guest on "Late Night with David Letterman."
In 1993, the Kilhams took two orphaned cubs and put them into a room of their 1812 Federal-style home. When the cubs got bigger, they were moved to the basement, but they started climbing the walls - literally. "I was sitting in the kitchen one morning and I heard the pipes banging," said Ms. Kilham. "It was the bears climbing up in the walls, with their little faces poking out from behind the pipes."
The Kilhams nurtured the cubs for the first 18 months of their lives and returned them to the wild. Mr. Kilham and his sister, Phoebe, both licensed in wildlife rehabilitation, did most of the work, but Ms. Kilham helped with feedings and daily care.
The Kilhams have assisted 34 bears since 1993, including five raised from infancy to about 18 months. The cubs were successfully returned to their natural habitats and have since had cubs, which also have had cubs. Mr. Kilham keeps tabs on his "children" after he returns them to the wild to study their behavior.
Ms. Kilham's business has also been able to survive, despite going up against the behemoths of the industry. Tyler, Simms & St. Sauveur is an accounting firm with a business unit focused on providing record keeping and consulting services to retirement plans, and Ms. Kilham heads up the pension consulting and employee benefit services areas. Clients include Dartmouth College.