SPARTA, NJ- This is the story of a black bear sow and her four cubs.  It was the fifth of July and there was a graduation party in a backyard on Sparta Mountain.  They were deep frying wings and barbecuing steak.  Some were swimming, others playing Kan Jam in the side yard.  Some were up on the deck.  Everyone was enjoying the beautiful weather when someone noticed a bear walking in the woods.

Everyone stopped what they were doing to take a look.  While not unusual to see bears on Sparta Mountain, it is not all together common to have a bear join the party.  Especially a mama bear with four cubs. 

Despite all of the attention, the mother bear went into the open garage of the neighbor next to the party.  She selected a garbage bag to her liking and the five went back to the woods.  Mama sat down with the bag, tore open the plastic and begin to assess the spoils of her hunt.  She found a Ruffles potato chip bag that was worth a lick, empty Capri Sun box was tossed aside but the watermelon was just right.  The mother got up to take the watermelon away from the cubs and the cubs then began their own garbage bag inspection. 

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There was also plenty that the five shared together.  While all of the bear activity was going on a mere 50 yards from the party, there were also two dogs in the fenced in yard causing quite a racket.  Neither the dozen people at the party nor the barking dogs caused the slightest bit of irritation to the bears. 

When the sow decided that the offerings of that bag were consumed she attempted to go back to get another bag, while the four cubs quickly climbed a tree to wait for her return.  

The neighbor was called with the news and the recommendation to close the garage door.  With the door to her grocery store now closed, mama returned to the cubs.  They came down out of the tree, faster than seems possible.  The five went deeper into the woods only to return several more times to see if the coast was clear. 

According to Sparta Police Department this year they are dealing with bear calls on a daily basis.  June and July are when the bears are most active.

Sergeant John Paul Beebe of the Sparta Police said, “Bears usually run away at the approach of humans which is what we want them to do.  It shows they still have a natural fear of humans.  Even though we have not had a bear attack on a person in almost 20 years, that does not mean that potential does not exist.  Never approach these animals and never leave food out for are just asking for trouble.  There is a local ordinance in place here in Sparta that forbids feeding wild animals. 

"Bear cubs are cuddly and cute looking, but they are wild animals. Never approach or attempt to pet or pick up these creatures.  Bear Sows are extremely protective and will attack if they sense potential danger to their young, even if your intention is to help the animal.

“Make sure your garbage is secured in either an enclosure or garage or in bear-proof garbage cans.  If there is a bear in yard, notify your local police.  In Sparta we have five officers who are certified ‘Bear Officers.’ They will attempt to condition a problem bear so it will not want to come back to a particular area.  This is done, in some cases, by using rubber buckshot or pepper ball that will sting the animal but not injure it.  For those bears that cause a direct threat to humans or destroy property such as breaking into homes in search of food will, in most cases, be destroyed by the officers.

“Always exercise extreme caution when bears are in the area.  Even though they can grow to be quite large, they can be extremely agile and fast.  Make sure when a bear enters onto your property that you get everyone indoors including your pets.  Then contact your local police.”

EDITOR'S NOTE; The photos in this story were taken with a long lense.