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Advisory Issued About the Emergence of Black Bears

Posted: May 14, 2014

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued an advisory regarding the emergence of black bears from their winter dens.

According to the release, encounters with black bears are more likely to occur now that the bears are out and about searching for food and mates.

To reduce the risk of such encounters, residents are urged not to feed bears and to “bear-proof” their surroundings to minimize potential conflicts with bears. Feeding bears—whether intentional or unintentional—invites trouble.

“Bears that learn to associate food with people, and their homes and living areas, can become habituated to easy sources of food and become the nuisance bears that regularly forage in neighborhoods. That can result in troubling encounters,” said Dave Chanda, director of the state Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The DEP offers the following tips to minimize conflicts with bears:

  • Use certified bear-resistant garbage containers if possible. Otherwise, store all garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids and place them along the inside walls of your garage, basement, a sturdy shed or other secure area.
  • Wash garbage containers frequently with a disinfectant solution to remove odors. Put out garbage on collection day, not the prior night.
  • Avoid feeding birds when bears are active. If you choose to feed birds, do so during daylight hours only and bring feeders indoors at night. Suspend birdfeeders from a free-hanging wire, making sure they are at least 10 feet off the ground. Clean up spilled seeds and shells daily.
  • Immediately remove all uneaten food and food bowls used by pets fed outdoors.
  • Clean outdoor grills and utensils to remove food and grease residue to minimize odors. Store grills securely.
  • Do not place meat or any sweet foods in compost piles.
  • Remove fruit or nuts that fall from trees in your yard.
  • Properly installed electric fencing is an effective way of protecting crops, beehives and livestock.

Wildlife experts advise that a black bear passing through a residential area should not be considered a problem, as long as it is behaving normally and not posing a threat. If you do encounter a bear, remain calm and do not run. Make sure the bear has an escape route. Avoid direct eye contact, back up slowly and speak with a low, assertive voice. To scare the bear away, make loud noises by yelling, banging pots and pans or using an airhorn. If the bear does not leave, move to a secure area. Black bear attacks are extremely rare. If a black bear does attack, fight back!

Report bear damage, nuisance behavior or aggressive bears to the DEP’s Wildlife Control Unit at 908.735.8793. During evenings and weekends, residents should call the police or the DEP Hotline at (877) WARN-DEP.

Want more information about how to be bear aware? The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife provides a useful repository of informational materials about living in “bear country.”