DEP ADVISES NEW JERSEYANS
TO BE AWARE AS BLACK BEARS
EMERGE FROM HIBERNATION
(06/20) TRENTON - As New Jersey's black
bears emerge from hibernation and begin roving for food, Department
of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today urged
residents to take simple precautions now to discourage the animals
from becoming a nuisance near homes.
"Nothing brings black bears into backyards faster than an
opportunity to raid a garbage can or a bird feeder. But feeding
these animals - either intentionally or unintentionally by carelessly
leaving out food or garbage - can have serious consequences for
residents, their neighbors and the bears," Commissioner Jackson
said. "Not only is feeding black bears dangerous, it is illegal.
Violators face a penalty of up to $1,000 for each offense."
Bears that learn to associate food with people often become a nuisance
and sometimes even aggressive, and then must be euthanized to protect
Incidents involving garbage, bird feeders and nuisance behavior
accounted for an overwhelming majority of the bear complaints reported
to Wildlife Control professionals in the DEP's Division of Fish
and Wildlife during the past seven years.
During 2005, Fish and Wildlife logged 1,104 bear-related complaints.
Of that total, 832 or 75 percent were nuisance, garbage and bird
Along with properly storing garbage, residents, particularly those
in areas with large numbers of bears, should avoid putting out bird
feeders. Instead, attract birds to backyards with birdbaths, nesting
materials and birdhouses.
Though most of New Jersey's black bears live in the northwestern
portion of the state, their range is expanding south and east, and
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
Come summer, during breeding season, male black bears will roam
long distances in search of mates.
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.
Remember, black bear attacks are extremely rare; should an attack
occur, however, residents are advised to fight back. Do not play
dead. Black bears are easily intimidated, and fighting back might
discourage the animal's aggressive behavior and cause it to break
off the attack.
To minimize the potential for conflicts 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 with a disinfectant solution at least
once a week 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 Division of Fish and
Wildlife at (908) 735-8793. During evenings and weekends, call
To learn more about New Jersey's black bears, visit the DEP's
Web site at www.njfishandwildlife.com.