North Jersey still has the "lion's share" of bears, but animal experts claim bear sightings are bound to become more common for residents in the central and southern portions of the state.

Black Bear Sighting in South Jersey
Black bear sighting in South Jersey (Townsquare Media)

Despite an annual black bear hunting season in December, New Jersey's bear population is expanding, according to Kelcey Burguess, black bear project leader and principal biologist for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife within the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"Some of these animals are traveling into new areas looking for new home ranges," Burguess said. "And they're moving further and further south looking for those habitats."

Black bears have always had a presence in the bottom half of the state, but the overwhelming majority can be found north of Route 78.

Burguess noted bears have the ability to travel extremely long distances, and back if necessary, just like other migrating species.

"We've actually had bears go from northern New Jersey all the way down to southern New Jersey, and then back again, in six months to a year's time," he said.

Through June 20 of this year, there were 892 reported bear incidents in the state, up from 691 during the same period last year, according to the division.

Anyone hoping to limit the chances of a black bear encounter can get rid of the bird feeders and avoid keeping their garbage outdoors for long periods of time.

"They're not Godzilla," Burguess added. "They're an animal that can be appreciated and enjoyed."

If anyone feels threatened, a 24-hour hotline is available at 1-877-WARN-DEP.

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