Residents must know how to react around black bears

In the past week, Jackson, Howell and Lakewood have had confirmed bear sightings. Since the 1980s the population of black bears in New Jersey has been steadily increasing – along with the number of New Jersey residents. People and bears are now coming into contact with each other more than ever before. Black bears are native to New Jersey. They are found mainly in northern New Jersey, but their range is expanding south and east.

According to a press release from the Jackson Division of Animal Control, black bears usually steer clear of humans. It is important to remember that black bears are large, powerful wild animals. They are considered potentially dangerous due to their size and strength. Never approach, touch or feed a black bear.

If you encounter a bear, keep your distance. Keep at least 15 feet away from the bear. People are not part of a bear’s diet, but if you have food or items that smell like food, a bear may approach you. A bear may snap its jaws., make a “huff” noise or swat the ground. These are warnings, not a sign that the bear is going to attack you.

Stay calm and do not run or climb a tree. A bear can easily outrun you and they are good climbers. Stand up tall and make the bear aware of your presence. Avoid eye contact, back up slowly and in a calm voice tell the bear to go away. Move slowly to a car or building if one is nearby. If you have a hat, handkerchief, or knapsack, throw it down so the bear will stop to smell it. This is your chance to move away.

Make plenty of noise. Yell, bang pots and pans, or use an air horn to scare the bear away. Making noise lets a bear know you are nearby and it will most likely avoid you.

Do not play dead. Remember that black bears eat dead things.

Never feed a bear. Bears that learn to associate food with people can become dangerous and may have to be destroyed.

To prevent black bear nuisance problems around your home, do not put garbage out the night before pickup. All garbage must be stored in airtight containers, in a secure area. Store garbage cans against the inside walls of a garage or basement, or in a secure shed. Wash garbage containers at lease once a week with a disinfectant solution to remove any odors.

The outside feeding of dogs and cats should be done during daylight hours. All uneaten food scraps, as well as the food bowl, should be removed immediately after feeding.

Birdfeeders should be suspended from a free hanging wire so that the bottom of the feeder is at least 8 feet off the ground. Feeders should be hung in daylight hours only, preferably between Dec. 1 and April 1, when bears are least active.

In high density bear areas, crops, beehives, and small livestock may be vulnerable to bear damage. Electric fencing is sometimes effective in controlling bear damage.

If you sight a bear you may report it to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Services Unit at (908) 735-8793. In Jackson, sightings should also be reported to the Jackson Division of Animal Control office at (732) 928-5780 or to the police department at (732) 928-1111.

For more informatio on New Jersey’s bears, go to