With summer outdoor season in full bloom, with residents hiking and biking through Morris County’s abundant natural areas, and many residents grilling and picnicking on a regular basis, it’s a good time to remember some key rules about dealing with Morris County's population of black bears, which are sharing the woods and trails, and are more than happy to share a burger or hot dog from your outdoor grill at this time of year.
Black bears, which are the largest land mammal in New Jersey, are commonly found in many areas of northern and western Morris County, which is considered part of “bear country’’ by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Bears are attracted by odors from potential food sources created by people. 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.
The most common bear problem county residents experience is black bears getting into their garbage. Bears are attracted to neighborhoods by garbage odors, so properly securing your garbage is one of the best ways to prevent bears from becoming a nuisance in your community, according to the DEP.
Residents are encouraged to work within their community to make sure all garbage is secured and kept away from bears. For tips on proper garbage management and coexisting with bears, visit: www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearfacts_avoid.htm. That site offer tips for homeowners, farmers, municipalities and outdoor enthusiasts.
The DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife offers some common sense tips to minimize conflicts with bears this summer, especially if you live in areas of Morris County that are regularly frequented by bears:
- Secure your trash and eliminate obvious sources of food, such as pet food on decks, easy-to-reach bird feeders, or food residues left in barbecue grills.
- Use certified bear-resistant garbage containers if possible. Otherwise, store all garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids and place them along the inside walls of your garage, or in the basement, a sturdy shed or other secure area.
- Wash garbage containers frequently with a disinfectant solution to remove odors. Put out garbage on collection day, not the night before.
- Avoid feeding birds when bears are active. If you choose to feed birds, do so during daylight hours only and bring feeders indoors at night. Suspend birdfeeders from a free-hanging wire, making sure they are at least 10 feet off the ground. Clean up spilled seeds and shells daily.
- Immediately remove all uneaten food and food bowls used by pets fed outdoors.
- Clean outdoor grills and utensils to remove food and grease residue. Store grills securely.
- Do not place meat or any sweet foods in compost piles.
- Remove fruit or nuts that fall from trees in your yard.
- Install electric fencing as an effective way to protect crops, beehives and livestock. If you encounter a bear that is standing its ground, remain calm and do not run. Make sure the bear has an escape route. Avoid direct eye contact, back up slowly and speak with a low, assertive voice.
Report bear damage, nuisance behavior or aggressive bears to the Wildlife Control Unit of the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife at (908) 735-8793. During evenings and weekends, residents should call their local police department or the DEP Hotline at 877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6337).