Posted Thursday, October 22nd, 2015
Ramapo Mountain State Forest reopened this week following a two-week closure for monitoring of unusual black bear activity in the area, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Biologists with the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife have determined that several bears caught during the park’s closure had become habituated to people, possibly due to illegal feeding by visitors or property owners near the park.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife continues to stress that feeding of bears is illegal, and has warned residents of all “bear country’’ counties, including Morris County, that feeding black bears “will not be tolerated.’’
Additional signage has been posted at the state forest in Bergen County warning hikers and other visitors to not feed bears, as this can create aggressive behavior in the animals and is illegal.
The decision to reopen the 4,200-acre state forest bordering Passaic and Bergen counties was made as a result of an assessment of Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists who have been monitoring traps set near trails where multiple encounters between one or more potentially aggressive bears occurred in recent weeks.
Bergen County reopened Ramapo Valley Reservation today, as well, with a recommendation by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. That park had been closed for a week after a bear exhibited potentially dangerous behavior with a group of hikers.
With many residents taking advantage of great fall hiking opportunities in Morris County and throughout the region, the DEP is offering the following tips in case you encounter a black bear on a trail:
- Never feed or approach a bear. Do NOT attempt to take “selfies’’ near a bear.
- Make your presence on the trail known by speaking loudly, singing, clapping your hands, or making other noises.
- Remain calm if you encounter a bear. DO NOT RUN FROM IT. Do not make direct eye contact with the bear, as this may be perceived as a challenge. SLOWLY BACK AWAY.
- Make sure the bear has an escape route.
- If the bear continues to follow you or is otherwise undeterred, make loud noises by yelling, blowing a whistle, banging pots and pans, or using an air horn, if available. Make yourself look as big as possible by waving your arms. If you are with someone else, stand close together with your arms raised above your head.
- If a bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer, it may be trying to get a better view or detect scents in the air. It is usually not a threatening behavior.
- The bear may utter a series of huffs, make popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swat the ground. These are warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away, avoid direct eye contact and do not run.
- Black bears will sometimes “bluff charge” when cornered, threatened or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, then slowly back away and do not run.
- Black bear attacks are extremely rare. However, if one does attack, fight back. Do not “play dead.”
If you see a bear, in particular one that does not show much fear, immediately contact local police or the Department of Environmental Protection’s hotline at (877) 927-6337, or (877) WARN-DEP.
For more information on black bear behavior, biology and tips, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/bearfacts.htm