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NJ Residents Urged to Bear-proof Their Surroundings This Fall

The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds residents living in areas of bear activity to "bear-proof" their homes and surrounding areas throughout the fall season. With cold weather setting in, black bears are becoming more active looking for food in preparation of the winter denning season. This increase in activity can bring bears closer to homes and into backyards and heightens the possibility for human/bear conflicts.

Black bears are opportunistic feeders and they will consume whatever food is available. During the fall bears can consume a minimum of 20,000 calories a day in order to prepare for the winter den season. It is part of a black bear's behavior to investigate both natural and human derived food sources. Inappropriately placed garbage cans, birdfeeders, leftover pet food containers or barbecue grills will provide an easily accessible food source for foraging bears. It is therefore especially important to keep homes and surrounding environments free from these attractants to minimize bear human interactions.

Take the following steps to avoid attracting bears to your residence:

  • Store garbage in bear-resistant containers in a secure area such as the inside wall of a garage or the basement. Wash garbage containers frequently with a disinfectant solution to remove odors. Put out garbage on collection day, not the night before.

  • Immediately after feeding outside pets, remove all uneaten food and food bowls.

  • Avoid feeding birds! 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.

  • Clean outdoor grills to remove food and grease residue to minimize odors. Store grills securely.

  • Do not place meat or any sweet foods in compost piles.

  • Residents that have fruit or nut trees on their property should recognize that bears will be attracted to any residual fruit or nuts left on the ground. Removing fallen fruit or nuts will minimize bear activity in your yard.

  • Properly installed electric fencing is an effective way of protecting crops, beehives and livestock.

  • NEVER feed a bear. It is against the law in New Jersey. Bears that are fed may become aggressive or dangerous and will be destroyed.

  • Use common sense in an encounter with a bear. Remain calm and never approach the animal. Make the bear aware of your presence by talking or clapping and always give it an escape route.

  • Report black bear damage, nuisance behavior or aggressive bears to the Wildlife Control Unit of the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 908-735-8793. After business hours and on weekends, residents should call their local police department or the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Hotline at 1-877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6337).
To learn more about New Jersey's black bears and ways to avoid problems with bears, visit the Division of Fish and Wildlife's website at or call 908-637-4125. Programs for schools and civic organizations are available free of charge, as are brochures and other materials about living with black bears.
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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2007
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: September 24, 2007