For days now Gloucester County has had the vibe of a Six Flags wildlife safari as a black bear traveled through our county.
Photos of the bear are circulating the internet and the “bear watch” has been the daily talk of many towns. It ate from a bird feeder in one photo, holding the feeder in its mouth. In a video shot yesterday by the Washington Township Police Department the bear was seen taking a dip, swimming in a man-made lake at a condominium complex near a busy roadway.
Residents of our county are unaccustomed to living with bears, although approximately more than two thousand live in New Jersey, mostly in the northwestern most corner of the state.
For this reason, the bear has understandably raised differing reactions from Gloucester County residents. To some, the black bear is seen as a beautiful, wondrous animal and they believe it should be left alone. To others, the animal is seen as a dangerous threat and they believe it should be tranquilized and relocated.
The bear watch began when it was first spotted several days ago in Winslow Township, Camden County, and then entered Gloucester County visiting Scotland Run golf course on Fries Mill Road.
At first there was speculation the bear was headed for the Glassboro Wildlife Management Area and then a few days later some believed it appeared to be traveling to Tall Pines State Preserve. However, it kept moving.
The bear made a loop through the county visiting Monroe Township, Clayton, Glassboro, Mantua, West Deptford, Deptford, and in recent days it was seen back in Washington Township and apparently now it’s headed for Camden County where the sighting originated.
Perhaps, this means goodbye?
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says this is currently the busiest time of the year for bears because the mating season has begun and the animals disperse to seek out territories of their own. This appears to be the situation occurring now in Gloucester County, according to the agency.
“The DEP is aware of a black bear sighted in several townships in Camden and Gloucester Counties,” the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection wrote. “Although the primary habitat for most of New Jersey’s black bears lies in the northwestern corner of the State, bears have been spotted in all 21 New Jersey counties.”
“So far, this bear has been displaying behavior typical of a dispersing animal, and the Division of Fish and Wildlife will respond only if the bear has gotten itself into a situation where it needs to be removed or the safety of local residents is at risk,” the agency added.
The NJDEP’s 2020 bear activity report states there have been 52 sightings of bears this year in New Jersey and zero human attacks reported. One case of an unprovoked dog attack has occurred, according to the NJDEP’s data.
However, despite attacks being rare occurrences, black bears are not completely harmless animals. According to the NJDEP, in 2014 the first documented human fatality from a black bear attack occurred in the state.
The bear in Gloucester County showed no signs of aggression, according to authorities.
Police departments here deserve credit for their continued work; They have done a great job tracking the bear and taking photos for the rest of us to enjoy.
As far as tranquilizing and relocating the bear, the NJDEP says in public information provided on its website that relocating bears “entails significant expense and it also requires suitable relocation areas.”
“Relocating bears to other states is not an option since there are no states willing to accept bears,” the agency continued.
NJDEP also states its bear management strategy includes education, research, population monitoring and appropriate lethal and non-lethal control measures.
GDN agrees with NJDEP’s stance allowing the non-aggressive bear to travel freely.
Hopefully, the bear can find its way back to the forest it came from before any invasive measures must to be taken.
If the bear is spotted in your township it would be wise to keep your dogs inside. Likewise, garbage can attract bears, so store trash cans inside a garage, if possible.