Bear sightings have been in the news a lot recently in New Jersey, with videos circulating from all over the state.

Bears have been spotted by hikers, in South Jersey, in fast food parking lots, and in North Jersey.

But are bear sightings actually on the rise, or does it just seem that way? According to NorthJersey.com, it’s not your imagination. Bear encounters are up this year, in fact, they’ve nearly doubled. Damage and nuisance complaints are up 40%. There were 474 bear activity reports so far this year, compared to 310 at the same time last year. Sightings went from 76 to 147 and home entries doubled from three to six. Of those 474 complaints, 237 came from Warren and Sussex Counties.

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, black bears are found in all 21 New Jersey counties. The average male weighs 400 pounds, the average female 185. As to the reason why sightings have increased so much, there is a difference of opinion. The state DEP, quoted in NorthJersey.com, says it’s partially due to people being home more because of the coronavirus shutdown during a time of year when bears are most active, while hunting advocates say it’s because of Governor Murphy’s ban on the bear hunt on state land.

In any case, the bears are definitely spreading southward in the state: in the year 2000, bears were known to be only in 11 North Jersey counties, and now they’re in all 21. Gloucester County, which had only one bear sighting last year at this time, has had 21 this year.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.