In recent years, the Division of
Fish, Game, and Wildlife has cooperated
with municipalities in northern and
central New Jersey, working through
situations involving black bears.
The Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife
policy concerning these animals and
the services which are affected is
If a bear is sighted in Mount Olive
or any municipality, it should not
be harassed or pursued. No attempt
should be made to capture or kill
the animal, if it poses no immediate
threat to life or property. Such
actions could create potential danger
to the public.
Black bears are capable of covering
great distances and often move during
the evening hours. Unless they are
bothered or chased, bears in areas
with which they are unfamiliar will
choose to remain inactive during
the day. More often than not, a bear
that wanders into a suburban or urban
area will leave the area under cover
Some bears do, however, get into
situations where physical removal
becomes necessary. In those situations,
the Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife
has personnel and equipment available
to effectively and safely carry out
the removal of the animal.
Under no circumstances shall the
local animal control officer or personnel
attempt to capture or immobilize
a black bear. Any bear sighting which
may occur in Mount Olive Township
should be reported immediately to
our Mount Olive Police Department
at (973) 691-0850 or Mount Olive
Health Department Animal Control
Officer at (973) 691-0900, Extension
7334 for tracking and follow-up notification
to the Division of Fish, Game, and
To obtain further information about
black bears, you may contact Principal
Wildlife Biologist, Patrick Carr,
at (908) 735-8793 or visit the Division
of Fish, Game, and Wildlife Website: www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw.
Following are questions and answers
concerning bears and bear management
in New Jersey. Information is accurate
as of March, 2001.
Q. Who is responsible for managing
black bears in New Jersey?
A. The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife is mandated to protect and manage
all wildlife in the state. In fulfillment of this responsibility, the
agency is seeking to manage the growing black bear resource while minimizing
negative impacts to the human population.
Q. How does the Division view the
black bear in New Jersey?
A. The Division believes that black bears are an important part of New
Jersey's natural heritage, and a vital component of healthy ecosystems.
Q. What is New Jersey's historical
bear population and how has it changed
A. Prior to European settlement,
bears were numerous and occurred
throughout the entire state. By
1900, settlers had practically
eliminated New Jersey's
black bears by clearing nearly all the state's forests for lumber,
fuel and agriculture, and by killing
bears indiscriminately as "vermin".
As a result of the protection provided by "game animal" status,
population increases in Pennsylvania and New York, and forest maturation
providing improved habitat, NJ black bear numbers have been increasing
and their range expanding since the 1980s.
Q. Was the black bear always a game
animal in New Jersey?
A. No. The Division and the Fish and Game Council have managed black
bears as a game animal since 1953. A black bear hunting season for New
Jersey was established in 1958.
Q. Weren't black bear numbers kept
low in New Jersey through extensive
A. No. The population remained small throughout most of the 20th century
due to limited amounts of suitable habitat. There were legal hunting
seasons for black bear in New Jersey only in the years 1958, and 1962
through 1970. The limited hunting season during those 10 years resulted
in only 46 bears being harvested, indicating a relatively small population.
This prompted the Division, the Fish and Game Council and the sportsmen
of New Jersey to close the season in 1971.
Q. How many bears are there in New
Jersey today and where do they live?
A. The population estimate for the year 2001 in the primary bear range
of Sussex, Warren, Passaic and Morris counties is 1146. The 1997 Black
Bear Management Plan identified 942 square miles of bear habitat in these
counties; bears currently exist in 2603 square miles across northern
New Jersey. In 1995 they were known to occur in 48 municipalities in
12 counties. During the past 5 years their range has been steadily expanding
southward and eastward from the northwestern part of the state. In the
year 2001, they occupy 140 municipalities in 16 counties.
Q. Is the population estimate based
on bear sightings or damage complaints?
A. The Division population estimate is based on 20 years of intensive
research information collected by capturing, handling and recording data
on over 600 bears. Mark-recapture, radio telemetry and annual monitoring
of denned females with cubs have provided the data on densities, breeding
age and productivity, mortality and longevity. This data is collectively
used to provide a scientific population estimate.
Q. What is the Division's overall
bear management strategy?
A. The Division of Fish and Wildlife's overall integrated bear management
strategy includes a public education campaign, black bear research and
monitoring, and the aggressive wildlife control measures of aversive
conditioning, trapping and removal, and euthanization of bears that pose
a public safety threat.
Q. How many complaints about bears
does the Division receive? What kinds
of problems do bears create?
A. In 1995, the Division's Wildlife Control Unit received 285 complaints
about bears. In 2000, the number soared to 1,375 complaints resulting
in $200,000 worth of damage. The types of complaints are expanding in
scope as well. Damaging bird feeders and trash cans have been fairly
typical in the past, but now livestock and pet kills and home entries
are on the rise.
Q. Why is there a problem now?
A. The Division recognizes that this situation has been developing over
the course of two decades. It is a complex and dynamic issue affected
by numerous factors, including an increase in suitable habitat, abundant
food supplies, increasing vehicular traffic, a more urban/suburban
population encroaching upon bear habitats and bears expanding their
range into areas with denser human populations.
Q. How do people contribute to bear-human
A. Bears that are fed by people
(intentionally or unintentionally)
are likely to end up in problem
situations. The Division urges
to not feed bears under any circumstances and to "bear- proof" their
surroundings to minimize potential conflicts with bears.
Q. What measures has the Division
taken to resolve bear-people conflicts?
A. The Division has been conducting
an intensive public education campaign
to teach residents, hikers, anglers and campers in "bear country" how
to successfully coexist with these animals. Efforts include presentations
to school children, civic organizations, communities and other groups,
as well as the development of an educational video, public service
announcements, brochures, signs and other educational materials. The
black bear education
program was awarded a national award for excellence for 1999.
Q. How does the Division respond
A. The Wildlife Control Unit provides advice to callers with minor bear
problems and technical assistance to homeowners, beekeepers and agriculturists
with serious damage problems. They also actively trap and aversively
condition bears responsible for recurring nuisance incidents and euthanize
bears that show unyielding or aggressive behavior, or that do not respond
to the conditioning process.
Q. Can the Division manage black
bear problems solely by expanding
the education and aversive conditioning
A. The Division recognizes and is committed to education and aversive
conditioning as valuable tools in managing conflicts between bears and
people. However, during the period between 1997 and 1999 when the Division
was conducting its most intensive education and aversive conditioning
activities, damage complaints escalated from 459 to 1,659. The number
of damage complaints during this period would certainly have been much
higher if the Division was not employing this management. This dramatic
increase in conflicts during this period is a clear indication that education
and aversive conditioning alone will never reduce conflicts to a level
that will be acceptable to the people whose property and safety are affected.
Q. What about other control alternatives
such as chemical or surgical sterilization
A. Presently there is no FDA approved contraceptive drug available for
bears (including SpayVac), and the methodology and effects of surgical
sterilization on free ranging bears have not been studied. It would take
years of extensive research and field trials to determine if sterilization
is even a viable alternative. Even if it were found to be feasible, we
would still have the same size population of bears. Relocating bears
entails significant expense and it also requires suitable relocation
areas. In New Jersey there is limited area in which to relocate bears.
Relocating bears to the Pinelands of southern New Jersey, which has been
suggested and is a viable option, has met with serious opposition by
residents in that region. Also, moving a problem bear from one area to
another is not a solution.