Police in multiple shore towns have been tracking a black bear first seen wandering in Toms River Friday night.

It's not clear if it is the same bear, but it does appears to be in the photos and videos posted on social media.

Facebook/Toms River Police
Facebook/Toms River Police

After the Toms River sighting, police in Howell and Lakewood also reported residents had called in seeing a black bear.

Facebook/Howell Police
Facebook/Howell Police

On Sunday, the bear (if it is the same one) wandered through the downtown section of Barnegat.

The Lakewood Scoop posted video of the bear to its twitter page.

Barnegat Police Chief Keith Germain posted tips from the National Park Service on what to do if you encounter a bear.

"I'm sure you heard the news," Germain said. "While we all love living on the edge of the 1.1 million-acre Pine Barrens, it comes with the occasional unannounced visit from neighbors who moved in before us."

Germain mentioned coyotes and rattlesnakes but "today's celebrity is one of the many American black bears that call our area home."

Facebook/Keith Germain
Facebook/Keith Germain

Bear sightings have been on the rise in all areas of New Jersey, and are likely to continue as juvenile bears begin breaking away from their mothers and start exploring on their own.

The bear being reported in Ocean and southern Monmouth counties does appear to be young.

Bear sightings were also been recorded in Middletown ahead of the Memorial Day holiday and in Atlantic Highlands.

Supporters of a black bear hunt claim the lack of hunting is leading to a sharp increase in the bear population, but the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection no longer keeps track of population numbers.

Gov. Phil Murphy ended the black bear hunt in 2021 and has resisted all attempts to reinstate it. New Jersey, Murphy says, "Is committed to nonlethal, humane but smart and safe means to control the population."

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story should have identified Keith Germain as the police chief in Barnegat.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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