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April 01, 2006 (rt23 news) - (06/20) TRENTON - As New Jerseyís 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 the public.

Incidents involving garbage, bird feeders and nuisance behavior accounted for an overwhelming majority of the bear complaints reported to Wildlife Control professionals in the DEPís 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 feeder incidents.

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 Jerseyís 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 safety.

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 animalís 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 itís 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 DEPís Division of Fish and Wildlife at (908) 735-8793. During evenings and weekends, call(877)927-6337.

To learn more about New Jerseyís black bears, visit the DEPís Web site at

New Jersey 2005 Black Bear Hunting Season Results

Hunters harvested a total of 298 black bears during New Jersey’s six-day bear season last December, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife reported in its final results of the 2005 hunt.

Of the total harvested, there were 125 males and 173 were females. During the hunt, which ran concurrently with the six-day firearm buck season, sportsmen and sportswomen took bears in five of the seven counties open to black-bear hunting. The hunter success rate was 7 percent, and no accidents were reported.

Hunters killed 93 bears (30 percent of total) that had been tagged earlier by Division personnel; 49 of those bears were tagged during 2005. Nineteen of the tagged bears had been previously captured at nuisance sites. Seventy percent of the harvested bears were untagged, similar to the numbers that Division biologists handle in research activities.

The season produced a harvest rate of 20 percent, consistent with the Division’s strategy to reduce and stabilize the bear population. The sex ratio (42 percent male and 58 percent female) is also similar to that found in the wild in the Garden State. As Fish and Wildlife biologists predicted, the sex and age structure of the harvest matched that of bears captured during research and control activities.

Of the total harvested, 196 bears were killed in Sussex County, 43 in Warren County, 32 in Passaic County, 26 in Morris County and 1 in Bergen County. Hunters killed 129 bears in Zone 1, 58 in Zone 2, 103 in Zone 3 and 8 in Zone 4. Hunters recorded bear harvests in 31 of the 105 municipalities open to black-bear hunting; Sussex County’s Sandyston Township tallied the highest, with 36 bears taken. Division biologists also anticipated those results, based on land area and bear density.

Approximately 90 percent of the hunters used shotguns to harvest their bears. Of the total, 115 bears (39 percent) were taken on private property, 120 (40 percent) on state property, 44 (15 percent) on federal property and 19 (6 percent) on county or municipal land.

The average field-dressed weight of females over 1 year old was 161 pounds, with a range of 75 to 280 pounds. The largest adult female bear had an estimated live weight of 327 pounds (280 pounds dressed) and was taken in Montague Township, Sussex County.

The average field-dressed weight of male bears over 1 year old was 263 pounds, with a range of 90 to 632 pounds. The largest adult male had an estimated live weight of 739 pounds (632 pounds dressed) and was also taken in Montague Township.

Sixteen male bears taken by hunters had an estimated live weight of 500 pounds or more, including 4 weighing more than 600 pounds and 2 tipping the scales at more than 700 pounds.

Posted by: Staff at
April 01, 2006


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