DEP REMINDS RESIDENTS:
IF YOU CARE ABOUT NEW JERSEY’S BEARS, DON’T FEED THEM
(08/33) TRENTON - Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today reminded New Jersey residents to take simple precautions with food storage and garbage disposal to discourage black bears from becoming a nuisance near homes and stores.
“Black bears’ extraordinary sense of smell gets them into big trouble in some communities. Bears can’t resist an easy meal, so avoid tempting them with unsecured garbage cans or Dumpsters, bird feeders, pet-food bowls left outside or even stale bread scattered on the lawn,” Commissioner Jackson said.
Feeding bears either deliberately or unintentionally by carelessly leaving out food or garbage can have serious consequences for residents, their neighbors and the bears. Bears that learn to associate food with people readily become a nuisance, are more likely to damage property or exhibit aggression, and usually are destroyed to protect the public.
In New Jersey, it’s illegal to feed black bears, and violators face a penalty of up to $1,000 for each offense.
For the second consecutive year, state conservation officers this spring are canvassing communities to boost public awareness about New Jersey’s bear-feeding ban and to make sure residents and business owners are doing all they can to avoid problems.
Incidents involving garbage, bird feeders and nuisance behavior account for an overwhelming majority of the bear complaints reported to Wildlife Control professionals in the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Along with properly storing garbage, residents should avoid putting out bird feeders. Instead, consider attracting birds to backyards with nesting materials and birdhouses.
Though most of New Jersey's black bears live in the northwestern portion of the state, sightings have been reported in all 21 counties. Sightings in residential areas are not considered a problem, if the bears are exhibiting normal behavior and are not creating a nuisance or threatening public safety.
“A bear spotted roaming in a community in most cases will move right on through without incident,” Commissioner Jackson said.
Beginning this month, bears begin breeding, and male black bears typically roam long distances in search of mates, increasing the likelihood of encounters with residents unaccustomed to seeing the animals.
Residents who suddenly encounter a bear should remain calm. Do not feed the bear, 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 minimize the potential for encounters with black bears near homes, residents are advised to take the following precautions:
- Never feed a black bear.
- Use 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.
- Put out garbage on collection day, not the night before.
- Wash garbage containers frequently with a disinfectant solution to remove odors. Draping rags soaked in bleach over your garbage bags also helps to eliminate odors.
- Avoid feeding birds, especially if you live in an area frequented by bears. If you choose to feed birds, do so during daylight hours only, between December 1 and April 1, when bears are least active. Suspend the bird feeder from a free-hanging wire, making sure it's at least 10 feet off the ground. Bring the feeder indoors at night. Clean up spilled seeds and shells daily.
- Do not place meat or any sweet foods in compost piles.
- Clean up after pets. If you feed them outside, remember to pick up any leftover food and remove bowls after they have finished.
- Clean outdoor grills thoroughly after each use. Grease and food residue can attract bears.
- Report bear damage, nuisance behavior or aggressive bears to the local police department or to the DEP's hotline at 1(877) WARN DEP.
To learn more about New Jersey's black bears, visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearinfo.htm. In addition to brochures and other information about living with black bears, the DEP provides free bear education seminars to schools and civic organizations.