Safety Tips When Encountering a Bear
Police alerted residents to a bear spotted in Hillsborough on Tuesday night.
Police warned residents on Tuesday night that a black bear was been spotted in the area of Beekman Lane, Triangle Road and Auten Road.
If you happen to see one in the area, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection offer some tips on how to handle a bear encounter.
The spring months are when black bears are at their most active, according to the state DEP. They lose about half of their body weight during hibernation, and when they wake up they begin the process of packing the weight back on.
The first rule of bear safety is do not feed a bear. Intentionally feeding a bear can be costly–fines of up to $1,000 can be metered out for the offense. More likely, though, bears will root through your garbage, pet food or bird feeders to find food. Once they know that they can find food in your neighborhood, they will likely come back for more.
David Chanda, director of the state's Division of Fish & Wildlife, said, “Properly securing trash and eliminating anything else a bear will eat is one of the best ways to prevent bears from being attracted to a home or property.’’
Here are some tips on bear proofing your yard:
- Look for a certified bear-resistant garbage container. While no garbage cans made of plastic are bear-proof, there are several businesses in the country who manufacture bear-resistant trash cans.
- If you cannot find a bear-resistant trash can, store your trash inside your garage, basement or other secure area between trash days.
- Wash your trash cans with disinfectant to eliminate the smell of food.
- Take your trash to the curb the morning of collection day and not the night before.
- Bring any bird feeders inside the house at night.
- Hang a bird feeder at least 10 feet in the air from a free-hanging wire.
- Clean any fruit, nuts or bird seed that spills in your yard each day.
- If you feed your pets out of doors, dispose of any remaining pet food right away and bring the bowls inside between feeding times.
- Clean outdoor grills thoroughly, and store them safely.
- Consider an electric fence as a security measure to help protect property, yards, animals, crops and beehives.
Bears tend to avoid humans. A black bear passing through a residential area does not need to be considered a threat as long as it is behaving normally.
However, the state DEP said that some bears have been exposed to humans for so long that they have lost their fear of them. Instead, they associate humans with food, and can become aggressive in their search for food.
The state DEP has some advice: When it comes to bear encounters, prevention is the key. If you live in an area where bears are common, remember to take someone with you when you travel, especially on foot, and to keep small children near you at all times.
One way to get bears to avoid you as you walk outdoors this bear season is to make them aware of your presence. This can be as simple as talking while you walk around.
Here are guidelines to follow should you come in close contact with a bear or if a bear comes into your yard:
- Remain calm.
- Make the bear aware of your presence: Stand up, wave your hands above your head, talk to the bear in a low voice. (Don’t use the word bear because a human-food-conditioned bear might associate “bear” with food. People feeding bears often say, “Here, bear.”)
- Keep at least 15 feet away from the bear. Note that the bear may utter a series of huffs, snap its jaw and swat the ground. These are all warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away, but do not run.
- Don’t run from the bear unless safety is very near and you are absolutely certain you can reach it (knowing that bears can run 35 mph).
- Don't climb a tree as an escape method because black bears are adept climbers and may follow you.
- Yell, bang pots and pans or use an airhorn to scare the bear away. The more it persists, the more aggressive your response should be. If you have pepper spray, use it.
- Don’t throw anything at the bear and avoid direct eye contact, which the bear could interpret as a threat or a challenge.
- Make sure to leave the bear an escape route
- Again, never feed the bear.
Remember, use common sense in a bear encounter–never approach the
In the unlikely event a black bear attacks you (where actual contact is made), fight back aggressively using your hands, feet, legs and any object you can reach. Aim for the eyes or spray pepper spray into the bear’s face. Do not play dead.
To report bear damage or behavior, call the Wildlife Control Unit of the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife at 908-735-8793. For evenings and weekends, ring the DEP Hotline at 877-WARN-DEP.
Learn more about New Jersey’s black bears and ways to avoid problems with them, visit the Fish and Wildlife website.