Black bears are beginning to emerge from their winter slumber and homeowners in northern New Jersey, where the animals are known to roam, are urged to take precautions to prevent encounters.

Black Bear sighting in Warren County NJ
Henry King, Getty Images

According to state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Bob Considine, bear sightings and incidents have declined since 2010, when the state started the black bear management plan.

"That plan is aimed at reducing bear and human encounters through education, research, monitoring trash management, and the annual bear hunt," Considine said.

Last year in the northernmost areas of the Garden State, there was a 21 percent decline in black bear sighting calls and a 20 percent decline in damage and nuisance complaints. Category 1 calls, which are more dangerous bear incidents, were down 3 percent.

"It's a declining situation, but there is a pretty robust bear population in the northern part of the state, so homeowners do need to take precautions," Considine said.

First and foremost, you should never feed a bear.

"No matter how hungry or docile they might seem at the moment, it is illegal in New Jersey to feed a bear," Considine said. "They are creatures of habit, so if you feed them, they will come back for more."

Other tips include the following:

  • Use certified bear-resistant garbage containers, if possible. If not, have containers with tight lids.
  • Wash garbage containers regularly to get rid of odors which can attract bears.
  • Put garbage out the morning of collection day instead of the night before.
  • Avoid having bird feeders.
  • If you do have bird feeders, suspend them about 10 feet from the ground and/or bring them in at night.
  • Clean bird seed from the ground.
  • Keep fruit or nuts that have fallen from trees off the ground.

For more tips on how to prevent bear encounters and actions to take around the home, visit

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