The Garden State is the most densely populated state in the country. If you live in New Jersey, black bears aren’t far from your home. In fact, there have been confirmed bear sightings in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
In the 1980s, the New Jersey black bear population began expanding its territory and their population has increased. Today, the black bears are thriving. New Jersey is home to about 3,000 black bears.
As black bears emerge from their dens in the spring, New Jersey residents may see bears crossing through their yards as part of their natural foraging pattern. Black bears are instinctually wary of humans and it’s important for their safety and ours that it stays that way.
To avoid a negative encounter with a bear, you may want to take measures to ensure they aren’t attracted to your home. Bears are always looking for an easy meal, so don’t give them one. Keep pet food indoors, garbage secured, and if you know bears are in the area, consider taking down your birdfeeders.
The number of bear “incidents” in was 237% higher from January to September 2022 compared to 2021. Last year, there were 62 aggressive human-bear encounters.
Pets need to be protected from bears as well. In 2022, there were 12 dog attacks. Dog owners may want to consider keeping their pets on a leash while out for exercise.
Nuisance bears can also be a threat to personal property. Last year, there were 84 reports of property damage caused by bears that amounted to more than $1,000.
While bear attacks on humans are rare, they do happen. In January 2022, a 81-year old woman set her garbage out by the road for collection. Later that day, she let her dogs out. Two bears were feasting on her trash. One of her dogs ran toward the bears and one bear took off. The other bear swatted the spaniel and snatched it up. The woman tried to get her dog from the bear and suffered a bite and scratches. The bear dragged the dog into the woods and the dog was mortally injured.
In May 2022, a 34-year-old New Jersey woman walked down a road to check her mailbox. She saw what she thought were two to three bears. One of them charged her. A neighbor scared the bears off with his car horn. The woman was taken to the hospital for treatment of her arm and backside.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) recommends people remain calm when seeing a bear. Be loud — yell and clap your hands. Make yourself look big. If you have a jacket, hold it above your head. Make sure the bear is not trapped in a corner. If you are with others, stay together and perform the previously mention actions together.
The NJDEP warns people to heed warning signs from a bear like huffing or popping sounds, snapping its jaws, or swatting at the ground. Avoid eye contact and back away slowly. Though tempting, do not run — it could trigger its chase instinct.
In the rare occasion a black bear does attack the NJDEP advises to fight back by using anything at the ready. Aim for eyes and snout.
Teach children about bear safety and give them a plan so they know what to do if they come across a black bear.
If you see a bear, give them space and enjoy viewing them from afar. Have you encountered a black bear in your area? I’d love to read about your experience in the comments!