The number-one black bear related complaint received by Fish and Wildlife each year
is black bears getting into trash. Human garbage is attractive to black bears and it is often an
easily obtainable, high-energy food source. Residents should be aware that it is illegal to feed black
bears in New Jersey, either intentionally or unintentionally. Anyone who feeds bears could face a
penalty of up to $1,000 for each offense.
In an effort to increase garbage management
efforts within bear habituated communities, municipal officials are encouraged to work with local
waste haulers to make certified bear-resistant garbage containers available to residents and
businesses. A list of manufacturers who produce bear-resistant trash containers can be found on our Garbage Management page.
Communities frequented by bears and interested in minimizing encounters between people and
bears should consider passing a local waste disposal ordinance to further public health and welfare. A
town ordinance should require that all trash in residential areas is properly secured in certified
bear-resistant containers. If any trash is left unsecured within the community, bears will become
trash-habituated and will become a nuisance and possibly aggressive or dangerous.
following sample waste management ordinance has been developed as a tool for New Jersey's communities
with high bear densities. The sample ordinance is based on one that was adopted by Eagle County,
Colorado in 2007. The ordinance requires the use of only certified bear-resistant containers and
enclosures throughout the community.
Sample Garbage Management Ordinance for Communities (pdf, 35kb)
Reporting Bear Complaints
Report black bear damage or nuisance behavior to the DEP's 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 1-877-WARN
The DEP's Fish and Wildlife personnel and municipal police departments are able to respond
quickly to residents' complaints about nuisance bears. Since 1998, more than 800 local, county, and
state law enforcement officers have completed the Fish and Wildlife's Black Bear Response Training Course,
taught by state-certified firearms instructors and bear biologists.
Police departments that
do not require DEP assistance are asked to log all bear related activity in their database or report
by calling 908-735-8793 or faxing the report to 908-735-6161 so that the information can be added to
the black bear database. Each police department trained in bear management is asked to complete a
yearly survey recording the number of calls their department handled throughout the year.
Fish and Wildlife personnel will relocate bears that venture into urban communities when
circumstances warrant such action. After releasing the bear in the nearest state wildlife management
area with suitable habitat, the DEP will notify municipal officials.