Bears in Jefferson Township

Bear Awareness

If you live in Jefferson Township, there is a very good chance you have seen a Black Bear. Is this something to be concerned about? That depends upon you and your neighbors' behavior toward the bears. Here is what you need to know about bears:

  • The bear population in New Jersey is somewhere around 3,000. Most live in Northern New Jersey. Yes this means Jefferson Township.
  • Black bears can run up to 35 miles per hour (record setting human sprinters have reached speeds up to 27 miles per hour). It is safe to say you cannot run away from a bear.
  • Bears are great swimmers. A lot better than we are.
  • Bears are excellent climbers. They climb trees for food and for protection when they get scared. They can also climb a lot faster than you can.
  • Bears eat plants, fruits, insects, small and mid-sized mammals and dead animals.
  • Bears give birth every other year to an average of 1 to 4 cubs. 3 being the average in northern New Jersey.
  • Male bears weigh between 400 to 600 pounds. Females average around 185 pounds.
  • Bears are not true hibernators during the winter. In other words, you may see a bear if we get a hot spell.
  • Bears start to become active in March; this is when you may see them at your garbage cans. They mate in June; this is when you may see them passing through your yard. Most bear sightings are between March and November.
  • Feeding bears in New Jersey is illegal. If people feed the bears they are hurting the bears in the long run. When people feed bears, the bears are no longer afraid of humans. When this happens, the bear must be conditioned. The police department has officers trained for conditioning bears. What we will do is shoot the bear with rubber buckshot. Then as the bear runs from this we shoot pyrotechnics toward the bear. These are like fireworks exploding. This should make the bear afraid of humans again. If not, we call in the division of Fish and Wildlife, and they come out and either trap the bear to condition it, or the bear is destroyed. So please do not feed the bears.

View a video that will tell how to live with bears in New Jersey.

How Do You Know if a Bear in Your Yard Is Dangerous

In the state of New Jersey, there are 3 categories of Bears: Category I, II, and III. You can tell what category of bear it is by banging two pots together through an open window. If the bear does not retreat from this noise, you need to call the Jefferson Township Police Department at 973-697-1300. If the bear does leave, it is most likely a category III bear and is just passing through. Here is a breakdown of what determines the categories of bears:

Category I: Bad Bears

These bears must be:

  • Bears that attack humans
  • Bears that attack livestock and pets
  • Bears that charge people, chase people, and come within 10 feet of people
  • Bears that cause $500 of damage to a house, shed, car or garage

Category II Problem Bears

These bears must be conditioned:

  • When the bear comes back again and again after you have taken away what the bear was eating
  • When the bear does not leave after you bang two pots together
  • Any property damage less than $500 to your house, shed, garage or car

Category III Normal Bears

These are the majority encountered in Hopatcong:

  • Bears that are just passing through going from one section of woods to another
  • Bears in the woods seen while camping, hiking and hunting
  • Bears that run away when people are present making noise
  • These bears may be at your bird feeder or garbage can but when they hear or see a human they leave

Co-Existing with Bears

  • Never feed the bears. It is illegal and carries a $1,000 fine
  • Feeding dogs or cats outside should be done during the day. The food if any is left should be brought inside
  • Garbage cans should be cleaned out and not stored with garbage in them behind a garage door or shed (A hungry 600-pound bear could easily break in a door)
  • Feed birds by hanging the bird feeder with a wire at least 10 feet off of the ground. (bears are tall when they stand up)
  • Clean the grill after using it
  • If you confront a bear back away slowly. Do not run nor stare the bear down. Do not play dead. Bears eat dead animals
  • If a bear walks towards you as you are backing up, be as big as you can by waving your arms and yelling. Look for a rock or stick to defend yourself. If attacked, fight for you life by poking the bear's eyes or striking the bear's nose
  • Do not get in between a female bear and her cubs

To learn more on bears in New Jersey go to New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife website.