Thousands of black bears have come out of hibernation in New Jersey, and they've started roaming the Garden State, looking for food, mates and territories.

Flickr User Bods
Flickr User Bods

"What we're doing is asking people to keep their eyes open, especially in campsites, near your homes, try to make sure keep food products away from bears so they're not tempted to come visit you," says New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese.

He points out there are some people in New Jersey who do a disservice to all of us by "adopting" these bears, putting food in their backyards, and they think it's cute and fun until the bruins show up at the house.

"You want to treat them with respect and dignity," he says, "but they're not your pets. You need to remember bears are wild animals - we co-exist with them here, enjoy them, but don't think that they are your pets. They are not."

Ragonese points out if a bear enters your home and you come face-to-face with him, you should simply back off slowly, because if they're cornered a bit, if they're in an areas that's a bit tricky for them to get out, they may react unpredictably.

He also says if you live in or near bear country, you want to keep food sources away from bears, because they have a great sense of smell. So if you put out trash, if you use your grill, if you have a bird feeder, they will smell the food that could lead them to your deck, your backyard, to your kids swimming pool and even into your house.

"You may think it's cute, you may think it's funny to try to feed bears until you get into a tricky situation. Don't try to take pictures with bears, and please don't feed bears - of course it's against the law to feed a bear."

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