NEW FILM AND SCHOOL CURRICULUM TEACH RESIDENTS HOW TO
UNDERSTAND AND CO-EXIST WITH BLACK BEARS
(11/P74) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection has released a new film documentary and companion school curriculum as part of its continuing effort to educate New Jersey residents about co-existing with black bears as numbers of the animals have increased, resulting in more bear-human encounters.
More than four years in the making, the documentary entitled "Living with New Jersey Black Bears" was developed with scientific input from New Jersey wildlife experts. The end result is a comprehensive and up-to-date educational film to help the public better understand and co-exist with black bears by taking viewers into the world of the black bear and to see how the State manages its bear population.
The 60-minute documentary, created by wildlife film producer Dan Bertalan, explores the growing national conflict of sharing the landscape with black bear populations, and offers a special 15-minute segment uniquely devoted to the issue of black bears in New Jersey.
"Understanding Black Bears," which is an adapted and expanded classroom version of the documentary, also is now available. This new interactive classroom curriculum covers 11 topics with 29 separate classroom activities and will be distributed free to interested school systems and teachers.
These new tools are part of the State's educational portion of its Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, which was approved last year to deal with an overpopulation of black bears in the Northwest part of the State, and a growing presence of black bears throughout the rest of New Jersey
"Black bears are part of the wide ranging mix of wildlife that lives in our state, providing an incredible diversity that requires consistent and professional management by our fish and wildlife experts,'' said Amy Cradic, the DEP's Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources. "The science- and fact-based comprehensive black bear policy recognizes that bear management requires a combination of tools, including public education and scientific research.
"This new film and curriculum will provide an important tool in helping our residents learn to co-exist with black bears and to better understand the complex nature of the job faced by our top-notch wildlife team,'' said Assistant Commissioner Cradic.
The black bear policy includes public education, research, bear habitat analysis and protection, hunting, non-lethal bear management techniques, enforcement of laws, and efforts to keep human food sources, especially household trash, away from bears to limit bear-human encounters.
New Jersey boasts a robust black bear population, estimated at more than 3,400 bears in the northwestern part of the State. Bears sightings have been reported in all 21 counties. Sightings have increased in recent years in many suburban towns and even urban areas.
With New Jersey's black bear and human populations at all time highs, bear-human conflicts have risen during the last decade. They range from simple nuisance bears foraging in residential trash cans or invading backyard bird feeders to the problem of bears losing their fear of humans, which poses a safety threat to people and can have fatal result for bears.
"It's rewarding using the impact of this documentary to help turn a controversy into a win-win situation,'' said Bertalan, the documentary's producer. "The bears win because people can learn how to avoid things that might result in their destruction. People win because they learn to appreciate this remarkable creature that is a symbol of a healthy and balanced environment.''
"Living with New Jersey Black Bears'' and the "Understanding Black Bears'' curriculum was jointly financed by the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildife in partnership with state government fish and wildlife agencies in New York, Florida and Arkansas, plus the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs. They are available to interested schools or organizations by contacting Michelle Smith at (609) 259-6961, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the State's black bear population, and to view the State's Comprehensive Black Bear Management policy, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/bearfacts.htm