Black bears are waking up & they are hungry — NJ issues warning
🐻 Black bears are leaving their dens after Winter hibernation
🐻 They are hungry, and are actively looking for food
🐻 State officials are urging residents to take precautions to reduce encounters
As New Jersey's black bear population emerges from Winter hibernation, state officials are issuing new warnings.
"It’s that time of year for hungry black bears to be out searching for food. Please follow our black bear safety advice to protect yourself and wildlife," wrote the New Jersey Department of Environmental protection on twitter.
Human bear encounters have been steadily rising in New Jersey, and most of increase can be traced to hungry bears looking for an easy food source.
"Black bears are attracted by odors from potential food sources created by people," the DEP warns, "Carefully controlling these sources of food and associated odors can help prevent black bears from being attracted to people's property and teaching them to associate people with food."
There were over 2,150 reported bear encounters in 2022, nearly three times the number reported the previous year. More than 3,000 black bears are believed to be living in New Jersey, according to the DEP.
While actual bear attacks, on humans or pets, are still extremely rare, there were a handful of incidents last year.
Those incidents included a woman who was attacked in her backyard and the mauling death of two small dogs.
After a four year hiatus, Gov. Phil Murphy reinstated New Jersey's black bear hunt saying he believed it was the only way to cut down the population and reduce the number of bear-human encounters.
However, the impact of the hunt on the overall population is likely minimal. The hunt was delayed by a court fight, and when it was allowed to proceed, only 7% of the states harvest target was met.
If the current trends continue, the number of bear encounters will only increase in 2023.
That is why the DEP is encouraging residents to "take simple, practical precautions to avoid attracting black bears and to discourage the animals from becoming a nuisance."