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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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March 12, 2007

Contact: Darlene Yuhas (609) 984-1795
Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994


(07/11) TRENTON - It's illegal to feed black bears in New Jersey, and state conservation officers, park police and environmental inspectors will fan out across five counties later this month to find out if residents and businesses are obeying the law, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced today.

"Feeding black bears either intentionally or unintentionally by carelessly leaving out food or garbage can have serious consequences for entire neighborhoods. It teaches bears to associate food with people and encourages them to become a nuisance," Commissioner Jackson said. "We're working to prevent problems between bears and people by raising awareness about this law and enforcing it."

In the coming weeks, a cadre of DEP environmental lawmen will canvass scores of homes and businesses in Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Morris and Warren counties to determine if the public is doing all it should to avoid attracting bears. Conservation officers, environmental inspectors and park police will ask residents and business owners a host of questions including how and where they store garbage, pet-feeding practices and their experiences with bear encounters.

Part of New Jersey's intensified effort to use non-lethal strategies to manage black bears, the enforcement sweep is being conducted toward the end of March, as the bears begin emerging from their winter dens to search for food.

Ransacked garbage cans and birdfeeders account for the vast majority of bear complaints reported to the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife during the past eight years. Though the black-bear population is situated primarily in the northwestern portion of the state, sightings have been reported in all 21 counties.

The DEP recommends residents and businesses take various steps to minimize the potential for encounters with bears by using bear-resistant garbage cans or containers with tight-fitting lids, properly storing pet and livestock feed and thoroughly cleaning outdoors grills, among others.

To spur compliance with the state's bear-feeding ban, the DEP is working in cooperation with municipal officials and local police departments in the five targeted counties.

Under the law, NJSA 23:2A-14, enacted in 2002, people caught deliberately feeding bears could be fined up to $1,000. Violators receive a written warning for the first offense, but are subject to a civil penalty for every subsequent offense.

Because careless food storage and garbage disposal also attracts bears and increases the likelihood of encounters with people, the DEP is asking state legislators to strengthen the law by prohibiting unintentional bear feeding as well. The DEP's request for amendments to the law includes stricter penalties for feeding black bears.

Last November, Commissioner Jackson said the DEP would fully implement non-lethal bear-management methods and analyze their effectiveness before holding another hunt. To support the non-lethal initiative, Gov. Jon S. Corzine has proposed an $850,000 state-budget appropriation to fund expanded public education programs, aversive conditioning and bear research.

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Last Updated: March 12, 2007