Since the 1980s the Garden State's black bear population has been increasing and expanding its range both southward and eastward from the forested areas of northwestern New Jersey. Within the most densely populated state in the nation, black bears are thriving and there are now confirmed bear sightings in all 21 of New Jersey's counties.
See NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife - Know the Bear Facts-Black Bears in NJ

This is not a problem as long as people take measures to stop attracting bears to residential areas and avoid conflict with those who do wonder thru.
Black bears by nature tend to be wary of humans and avoid people. Some common-sense safety tips are:

  • Don't leave garbage cans, bird feeders or anything a bear might eat out at night.
    If you can't put your garbage can in a garage, you can hand a rag soaked in ammonia or bleach on it.
    It's OK to feed birds between December 1 and April 1.
  • Make noise speaking, clapping, singing if you are wandering around your yard after dark, so you don't surprise a bear and back them into a corner.
  • If you see a bear stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, then slowly back away and do not run.
See more saftey tips ( and
- Tips on Reducing Conflicts and Encounters with Bears During Active Spring Period
( at the Div. of Fish & Wildlife
There are additional tips if you live in the NW part of the state with a large black bear population.

The Div. of Fish & Wildlife in the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is responsible for Bear Management in the state.
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).
They will handle the situation based on their rating category.

Black Bear Category Rating Criteria
Category I Bears which are a threat to public safety and property. Damage > $500
These bears are trapped and euthanized
Category II Nuisance bears which are not a threat to public safety or property.
e.g. Habitual visits to garbage containers, dumpsters or birdfeeders and minor property damage.
These bears are trapped and released on site where they are aversively conditioned using rubber buckshot, pyrotechnic charges and bear dogs (black mouth curs) so that they receive a negative experience associated with the nuisance location and people.
Category III Bears that exhibit normal behavior and are not a nuisance or threat to public safety.
e.g. Black bears passing through rural and suburban neighborhoods.
The Black Bear Response Unit offers assistance in the form of technical advice on bear-proofing surroundings to callers reporting encounters.
No attempt is made to capture a Category III bear
See: Management Measures at NJ Div. of Fish & Wildlife

Although rare, bears will kill small pets. Keep them on a leash when walking them.

Under the law, NJSA 23:2A-14, enacted in 2002, people caught deliberately feeding bears could be fined up to $1,000. Violators receive a written warning for the first offense, but are subject to a civil penalty for every subsequent offense.

David Chanda, Director
N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife
Mail Code 501-03
P.O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625-0420
908 735-8793 Wildlife Services
1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337) Bear hotline
Page created by:
Don McBride
Raritan Valley Group of the Sierra Club
NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife
   - Bear Facts for Homeowners
    Bear Safety Tips
    Garbage Management
    See others at above site (Facts for Homeowners)
   - Know the Bear Facts-Black Bears in NJ
     Tri-fold brochure
   - Tips on Reducing Conflicts and Encounters with Bears During Active Spring Period

Bear Safety under recreation
Bear Smart Society
How to Live with Black Bears at the U.S. Forest Service
Bear Pepper Spray:  It Works! - Sierra Club (primarily for use in Grizzly Country)
Sierra Club Delta (Louisiana) Chapter Louisiana Black Bear Quiz page

last updated 3 May 2012