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The fall season means New Jersey’s black bears are on the move foraging for food to fatten up for winter. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds you to take precautions to avoid attracting bears while living or recreating outdoors in areas frequented by these animals.
Feeding bears deliberately or unintentionally by carelessly leaving out food or garbage can have serious consequences for residents and bears. Bears that learn to associate food with people can become a nuisance and are more likely to damage property or exhibit aggression.
Intentional feeding of a bear is dangerous, illegal and carries a fine of up to $1,000.
Follow these tips to minimize encounters with bears:
• Secure trash and eliminate obvious sources of food, such as pet food, easy-to-reach bird feeders, or food residue in barbecue grills. • 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 a garage, the basement, a sturdy shed or other secure area where a bear is unlikely to see or smell it. • 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 and away from branches a bear can climb on to access them. Clean up spilled seeds and shells daily. • Remove all uneaten food and food bowls used by pets fed outdoors. • Clean outdoor grills and utensils to remove food and grease residue. 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. • Install electric fencing to protect crops, beehives and livestock.
If you encounter a black bear while outdoors, follow these tips:
• Remain calm and never run from a bear. Avoid direct eye contact, which a bear may perceive as a challenge. Back away slowly if a bear utters a series of huffs, makes popping sounds by snapping its jaws or swats the ground. Make sure the bear can easily escape. • 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. This is usually not a threatening behavior. • If a bear does not leave the area or advances toward you, make loud noises to scare it away by yelling, using a whistle, banging pots and pans or sounding an air horn. 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 heads. Move to a secure area, such as a vehicle or building. • If hiking in bear country, always make your presence known by talking loudly or clapping hands. • 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 on humans are rare. If a black bear does attack, fight back.
A black bear passing through an area and not causing a problem should be left alone. People should leave the area and allow the bear to continue on its way. When frightened, bears may seek refuge by climbing trees. If the bear does go up a tree, clear the area and give the bear time to climb down and escape.
Report bear damage, nuisance behavior or aggressive bears to your local police department, the Wildlife Control Unit of the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 908-735-8793 or the DEP 24-hour Hotline at 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337).