TRENTON – With black bears now entering their most active period of the year as they search for food and mates, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin urged residents to follow some simple precautions to reduce the risk of bad encounters with bruins.
“A black bear seen in a residential area should not be considered a problem, as long as it is behaving normally and not posing a threat,” Martin said. “However, bears that learn to associate food with people can become habituated to easy sources of food and become a nuisance as they forage for more. So the best thing to do is to not give bears the opportunity to equate you or your property with food.
“Naturally you should never feed a bear,” Martin said. “But the most common problem is bears feeding on garbage. Properly securing your garbage is one of the best ways to prevent bears from looking at your property as a food source.”
Feeding a bear is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 per offense.
The proposed New Jersey Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy developed by the state’s Fish and Game Council and approved by Commissioner Martin emphasizes managing black bears through research and monitoring, non-lethal and lethal control of problem bears, public education on co-existing with bears, law enforcement to reduce conflicts between bears and people, and a controlled hunt.
Martin offers the following tips to avoid conflicts with bears:
* 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, or in the 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 night before.
- 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 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.
- Black bear attacks are extremely rare. Should a black bear attack, fight back. Do not play dead.
Report bear damage, nuisance behavior or aggressive bears to the Wildlife Control Unit of the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife at (908) 735-8793. During evenings and weekends, residents should call their local police department or the DEP Hotline at (877) WARN-DEP.
To learn more about New Jersey’s black bears and ways to avoid problems with them, visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearinfo.htm
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