Advisory Issued About the Emergence of Black Bears

Posted: May 13, 2013

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.

“Black bear sighting and incidents, which dropped last year, are down substantially again this year,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin. “But even with this initial success, state residents can further reduce the risk of interactions with bears this spring by taking a few common sense steps. Most importantly, do not feed bears, either intentionally or unintentionally.”

Bears that learn to associate food with people, and their homes and living areas, can turn into nuisance bears that regularly forage in neighborhoods looking for easy sources of food. The result is sometimes troubling bear-human encounters.

DEP wildlife experts stress 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. They offer the following tips to minimize conflicts with bears this spring:

  • 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.

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.

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.”