Police in an Ocean County town are warning residents to be vigilant after a black bear was spotted in two locations on Sunday, but it’s not the first occurrence there or at the Jersey Shore.
The bear, spotted climbing a tree in the eastern portion of Manchester and not acting aggressive, moved into a wooded area along the border with Jackson and Toms River after police used sirens, air horns, and water hoses.
But the spotting isn’t too unusual for the area. According to reports on Jersey Shore Hurricane News, in June 2014, a bear was spotted in Manchester, and in May 2012, Howell, Jackson, and Lakewood.
And the state has reported sightings in all four Shore counties.
According to New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife mapping, below, the black bear territory has expanded steadily from the mountains of northwest New Jersey down to the coastal plain.
They’re now found in all 21 counties, expanding southward from 1995 through 2014, although most still live in the northwest portion of the state.
State wildlife officials say they use “an integrated approach to managing New Jersey’s black bear population, fostering coexistence between people and bears.”
They say the most common problem residents experience is black bears rummaging through garbage — bears are wary of people — so officials say to properly secure all refuse.
State regulations prohibit police from using lethal force on any animals that do not pose an immediate threat to the public.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife offers the following bear safety tips:
Never feed or approach a bear!
Remain calm if you encounter a bear. Do not run from it.
Make the bear aware of your presence by speaking in an assertive voice, singing, clapping your hands, or making other noises.
Make sure the bear has an escape route.
If a bear enters your home, provide it with an escape route by propping all doors open.
Avoid direct eye contact, which may be perceived by a bear as a challenge. Never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away.
To scare the bear away, make loud noises by yelling, banging pots and pans or using an airhorn.
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 head.
The bear may utter a series of huffs, make popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swat the ground. These are warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away, avoid direct eye contact and do not run.
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. It is usually not a threatening behavior.
Black bears will sometimes “bluff charge” when cornered, threatened or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, then slowly back away and do not run.
If the bear does not leave, move to a secure area.
Report black bear damage or nuisance behavior to the DEP’s 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337).
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 are extremely rare. If a black bear does attack, fight back!