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Recent Bear Sightings Spur a Reminder to Follow Safety Precautions

Bear sightings in suburban New Jersey prompt a lesson in bear safety


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This spring and summer there have been a spate of bear sightings in suburban New Jersey: Livingston, Millburn, Short Hills, Montclair . . .  the list goes on and on.

Then there was a bear going for a dip in a backyard pool in North Caldwell, NJ on July 21.

And on July 26, a black bear was seen sauntering by Summit Middle School, triggering a Code Red Alert from the City of Summit.

Still, these sightings are not as spectacular as I first thought when I heard about them. The black bear population in New Jersey has been increasing since the 1980s, and there have been confirmed bear sightings in all 21 New Jersey counties. One of the main bear attractors is garbage, so always make sure your trash is secured.

While bear attacks are extremely rare, here is a list of important Bear Safety Tips from the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife:

  • Never feed or approach a bear!
  • Remain calm if you encounter a bear.
  • Make the bear aware of your presence by speaking in an assertive voice, singing, clapping your hands, or making other noises.
  • Make sure the bear has an escape route.
  • Avoid direct eye contact and never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away.
  • To scare the bear away, make loud noises by yelling, banging pots and pans or using an airhorn. Make yourself look as big as possible by waving your arms. If you are with someone else, stand close together with your arms raised above your head.
  • The bear may utter a series of huffs, make popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swat the ground. These are warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away, avoid direct eye contact and do not run.
  • If a bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer, it may be trying to get a better view or detect scents in the air. It is usually not a threatening behavior.
  • Black bears will sometimes "bluff charge" when cornered, threatened or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, then slowly back away and do not run.
  • If the bear does not leave, move to a secure area.
  • Report black bear damage or nuisance behavior to the DEP's 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337).
  • Families who live in areas frequented by black bears should have a "Bear Plan" in place for children, with an escape route and planned use of whistles and air horns.
  • Black bear attacks are extremely rare. If a black bear does attack, fight back!

Download a printable list of the above Bear Safety Tips.

And you can always view black bears up-close, but safely, at the Turtle Back Zoo (photo from Turtle Back Zoo).

Have you seen a bear in New Jersey? Tell us your story below!

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