SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – “Baby” the tomcat didn’t pussy foot around Sunday when a black bear came into his yard and proceeded to raid the birdfeeder.
“It was crazy,” Ridge Road resident Andra Camerota said about first seeing the black bear in her yard around 9 a.m. Sunday morning. “I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Camerota said she went out on her back patio and saw the approximately six-foot bruin standing on his hind legs, pulling down her recently filled birdfeeder from the tree where it was hanging.
She said her visitor pulled the feeder down, then went across her driveway, sat down, and began to eat the seeds.
“My boyfriend Hugh (Dale) tried to scare him away,” she said. “But (the bear) was completely brazen.”
The couple stayed outside watching the bear for 10-15 minutes as it sat there with happily chomping down the birdseed.
Attempts by Dale to run the bear off by clanking garbage can lids together and making other loud noises, had no effect, Camerota said.
“(The bear) did not even budge,” she said. “We were just out there looking at it.”
Finally, the couple’s red, tabby, tomcat, “Baby” started to “stalk” the bear with its tail raised and hissing at the intruder.
“The bear got up and sauntered away,” she said, heading back into the woods between Route 1 southbound and Route 27. “We got the birdfeeder back and it was intact. We are going to hang it a little higher.”
Camerota said she is no stranger to seeing wildlife on the property from deer to wild turkeys, but “this was a first.”
She called police and reported the sighting.
Police said residents in that area reported seeing the bear again around 1 p.m., around the Doubletree Hotel on Route 1.
Bears have been reported in several areas in the state this summer, with sightings just days ago in South Plainfield and Piscataway.
According to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s website, the black bear is the largest land mammal in the state, and its population has increased since 1980.
With the increase in population, black bear sightings have been reported in all 21 counties in New Jersey, according to the agency.
The agency’s site said that the main problem residents’ face with the bears is garbage.
The bears are attracted to neighborhoods by garbage odors as they forage for food, so the state recommends securing garbage containers to cut down on the odor.
According to the state, while the bears tend to be weary of humans, once they are fed, or find easy meals of things like garbage, birdseed, pet food, food or even small livestock, that wariness quickly wanes.
This can lead to the bear becoming a nuisance in the area or aggressive to the point where it needs to be trapped or destroyed, according to the state.
Here are some tips from the agency if you find a bear in your yard as Camerota did;
- Never feed or approach the bear.
- Remain calm.
- Make the bear aware of your presence by speaking in an assertive voice, clapping, singing or making other noises.
- Make sure the bear has an escape route.
- If it gets into the home, prop open all doors to give it a way to escape.
- Avoid direct eye contact as the bear may see it as a challenge. Don’t run, but back slowly away.
- Scare the bear away by making loud noises and making yourself look as big as possible.
- Watch for signs of the bear making huffing sounds or cracking its jaw. That means you are too close.
- A bear standing on its hind legs usually means it is trying to get a scent or a better view of something and is not usually threatening.
- It may make a “bluff charge” when cornered, threatened or trying to steal food. Stand your ground, avoid eye contact, and do not run, but back away slowly.
- If it does not leave, go to a secure location.
- Immediately notify the state’s hotline at 1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337).
- Residents in areas with a high population of bears should have a “Bear Plan” for children consisting of air horns, whistles and a planned escape route.
- Black Bear attacks are very rare, but if it does, fight back.