New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife Back to State of NJ Homepage Back to Fish and Game Homepage Back to DEP Homepage 


February 26, 1999

For more information contact:
Bob Eriksen at 908-735-8793

During 1998, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP's) Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife received a record-breaking number of 892 complaints regarding black bears in North Jersey. The total is a 63-percent increase over the 1997 total of 547.

"As spring approaches and the population continues to grow, residents can expect to experience increased encounters with black bears in the northern part of the state," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "Education is the key to successfully co-existing with these critters and the Division will do its best to continue its efforts to foster a positive human/bear relationship in this sensitive part of the state."

"The Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife is and will continue to make every effort to assist New Jerseyans in these areas, but unless stable funding for wildlife control is secured, the agency will reach a point when it can no longer handle the influx of black bear-related complaints," said Fish and Game Council Acting Chairman John Bradway.

Last year, the Division spent more than $50,000 on an education campaign to teach New Jerseyans how to better share their space with black bears. Working cooperatively with the DEP's Division of Parks and Forestry, educational materials were developed and distributed to every outdoor enthusiast that camped in a North Jersey state park. This information was also sent to every private campground in the area. In addition, Division staff visited several towns and schools within 'bear country' to stress the importance of fostering a positive, successful co-existence with bears.

In 1998, Division biologists dealt with 36 bears involved in situations requiring direct attention, removing nine of them from towns. In 1997, there were only about 12 bears needing such attention, with three animals requiring removal.

Black bears were responsible for 16 home entries and $100,000 worth of property damage in 1998. In addition to rabbits, domestic birds and sheep, bears were responsible for injuring several dogs and one horse. Black bears were also accountable for the destruction of bee hives and birdfeeders, as well as numerous trash-related problems and motor vehicle accidents.

In addition to phone calls, several serious black bear incidents were reported in Warren and Sussex counties, one resulting in the euthanization of a repeated livestock killer. The incidents included a bear loitering at a school bus stop and an animal chasing a woman into her neighbor's garage.

"Seeing a black bear in the wild is an exhilarating experience. Unfortunately, as the population continues to grow, black bear encounters will become a more frequent occurrence," said Bob Eriksen, currently in charge of the Division's Wildlife Control Program and a professional biologist dedicated to wildlife for more than 20 years.

"These incidents are by no means the fault of the animal, but the inevitable result of human sprawl encroaching on their habitat," Eriksen said. "In a sense, there is no place left for New Jersey's black bears to go, but in our own backyards. We must learn to live with bears and appreciate the species for the valuable natural resource that it is. However, we must also acknowledge that as this population continues to increase, some form of control will need to be implemented."

The Division offers the following advice for those who may encounter a black bear:

  1. Remain calm. Most bears are easily frightened into leaving.
  2. Never approach the animal and observe only from a distance. Make your presence known through clapping, talking, singing or making other sounds.
  3. Make sure the bear has an escape route.
  4. The bear may utter a series of huffs, snap (pop) its jaws and swat the ground. These are all warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away.
  5. If a bear stands on its hind legs, it is merely trying to get a better view rather than acting in a threatening way.
  6. Black bears will sometimes "bluff charge" when cornered, threatened or attempting to obtain food. Stand your ground and slowly back away.
  7. If you encounter a bear at close range, remain standing upright, avoid direct eye contact, back up slowly and speak in a calm, assertive voice.
  8. If the bear will not leave, move to your car or house, if available. If not, the same rules as in number 7 apply. Remain standing upright, avoid direct eye contact, back up slowly and speak in a calm, assertive voice.
  9. Never attempt to feed a bear. Bears learn very quickly. Black bears that associate food with people may become aggressive and dangerous. This may lead to personal injury, property damage and the need to euthanize problem animals.
  10. Report all bear damage and repeated nuisance incidents to the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife at 908-735-8793.
For more information on black bears, send a self-addressed, stamped, business-sized envelope to: NJ Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, P.O. Box 400, Trenton, NJ 08625-0400, Attention: Bear Country.