With bear sightings in all 21 New Jersey counties and bear-human encounters seeing an increase in 2014, the Department of Environmental Protection has released information to keep residents – and bears – safe while “co-existing with the creatures.”
Bear sightings have increased this year in central and southern New Jersey, including areas like Burlington County, which is outside traditional bear country of northwest New Jersey, the DEP said.
"Please understand 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,” said DEP Senior Wildlife Biologist Kelcey Burguess in a statement.
It’s illegal to intentionally feed black bears in New Jersey and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, but the more common problem, according to the DEP, is the unintentional feeding of the bruins by homeowners. Residents are urged to secure their trash and eliminate other sources of food, including domesticated pets’ dishes out on the deck or in the yard.
Easy-to-reach bird feeders or food residue left in barbecues can also attract the bears, the DEP said.
The following additional tips are also offered: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, or in the 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 night before.
- 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. 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.
- If you 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.
Anyone who comes across an aggressive bear, nuisance behavior, or needs to report bear damage can contact the Wildlife Control Unit of the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife by calling 908-735-8793. During evenings and weekends, call your local police department or the DEP hotline at 877-WARN-DEP.