4 ‘aggressive’ bears killed, keeping Ramapo State Forest closed
Ramapo Mountain State Forest remains closed because of unusual black bear behavior in the forest.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said it has put down four bears in the park on the Bergen-Passaic County line following several incidents over the past two months in which hikers "have reported being pursued by potentially aggressive bears in recen weeks." The bears did not seem fearful of humans, the DEP said.
Division of Fish & Wildlife Director David Chanda suggested that one reason for the change in behavior could be that visitors or nearby property owners illegally feeding the bears.
"We cannot take any chances when it comes to protecting members of the public who use this popular state forest for hiking and other outdoor activities. We must err on the side of protecting people," Chanda said. "Our technicians and biologists are experts in bear behavior and in their best professional judgement deemed that each of these bears posed a potential threat to public safety."
Looped snare traps have been set and are being monitored, and signs are being put up warning people not to feed the bears in the park and in the nearby Ramapo Mountain County Reservation in Mahwah where a group of eight people were chased by a bear, the DEP said.
Chanda said there is plenty of food in the forest for bears and if they are being fed by humans they will come after other humans looking for more.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife offers the following tips when hiking in bear country:
• Never feed or approach a bear.
• Make your presence on the trail known by speaking loudly, singing, clapping your hands, or making other noises.
• Remain calm if you encounter a bear. Do not run from it. Do not make direct eye contact with the bear, as this may be perceived as a challenge. Slowly back away.
• Make sure the bear has an escape route.
• If the bear continues to follow you or is otherwise undeterred, make loud noises by yelling, blowing a whistle, banging pots and pans, or using an air horn, if available. Make yourself look as big as possible by waving your arms. If you are with someone else, stand close together with your arms raised above your head.
• If a bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer, it may be trying to get a better view or detect scents in the air. It is usually not a threatening behavior.
• The bear may utter a series of huffs, make popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swat the ground. These are warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away, avoid direct eye contact and do not run.
• Black bears will sometimes “bluff charge” when cornered, threatened or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, then slowly back away and do not run.
• Black bear attacks are extremely rare. However, if one does attack, fight back. Do not “play dead.”
• If you see a bear, in particular one that does not show much fear, immediately contact local police or the Department of Environmental Protection’s hotline at (877) 927-6337, or (877) WARN-DEP.