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June 22, 1998

For more information contact:
Bob Eriksen at 908-735-8793

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife has received a record-breaking number of phone calls regarding black bears in North Jersey. Since the first of the year, 289 bear-related damage complaints have been logged with 170 registered in May alone.

"Black bears are an extremely valuable natural resource," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "Unfortunately, many residents of 'bear country' who are experiencing property damage and other nuisance behaviors first-hand are regarding this growing population as a liability rather than an asset. Our goal is to educate New Jerseyans on successfully sharing their space with these creatures and maintaining their presence as a valuable part of the Garden State."

As compared to this year's total, 156 complaints were logged last year during this same time period. Livestock losses for 1998 include 50 rabbits, 40 domestic birds, four sheep and one goat. In addition, two dogs and one horse were injured. Bears were also responsible for the destruction of bee hives and a variety of other property damages.

In addition to telephone complaints, several serious black bear incidents were reported, one resulting in the euthanization of a problem bear. The incidents transpired last April in Warren and Sussex counties.

Several school children in Blairstown were frightened when a 500-pound male bear repeatedly loitered near their bus stop. In addition, a woman near Culvers Lake was chased into a neighbor's garage while walking her dog. The Division has also received numerous reports regarding the destruction of bird feeders, trash-related problems and attempted home entries.

The problem bear was euthanized in Stillwater. A repeat livestock killer, the bear killed two sheep and more than a dozen domestic ducks and geese in the past year. The animal was live-trapped in December, radio-collared, received aversive conditioning (negative feedback encouraging it to avoid repeating the behavior) and was released more than 20 miles away. The bear returned to its home range in March and began killing livestock again. As a result, the Division was forced to euthanize the animal.

The following advice is offered to those who may encounter a black bear: 1. Remain calm. Most bears are easily frightened into leaving.
2. Never approach the animal and observe only from a distance. Make your presence known through clapping, talking, singing or making other sounds.
3. Make sure the bear has an escape route.
4. The bear may utter a series of huffs, snap (pop) its jaws and swat the ground. These are all warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away.
5. If a bear stands on its hind legs, it is merely trying to get a better view rather than acting in a threatening way.
6. Black bears will sometimes "bluff charge" when cornered, threatened or attempting to obtain food. Stand your ground and slowly back away.
7. If you encounter a bear at close range, remain standing upright, avoid direct eye contact, back up slowly and speak in a calm, assertive voice.
8. If the bear will not leave, move to your car or house, if available. If not, the same rules as in number 7 apply. Remain standing upright, avoid direct eye contact, back up slowly and speak in a calm, assertive voice.
9. Never attempt to feed a bear. Bears learn very quickly. Black bears that associate food with people may become aggressive and dangerous. This may lead to personal injury, property damage and the need to euthanize problem animals.
10. Report all bear damage and repeated nuisance incidents to the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife at 908-735-8793.

For more information on black bears, send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to:

Attention: Bear Country
NJ Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife
P.O. Box 400
Trenton, NJ 08625-0400