When most people envision bears, they picture them roaming the vast forests of the west, pulling salmon from rushing rivers or running through the grassy meadows of Alaska. For more and more New Jersey condo owners, however, that vision has become far more suburban with black bears appearing in backyards, on patios, crossing streets and, in a few rare instances, trying to get in through the back door.
In 2005, there were close to 1,000 reports of human encounters with bears in New Jersey alone. Most of these sightings have taken place in Sussex, Warren, Passaic and Morris counties, north of Interstate 80 and west of Interstate 287. That said, bears have been spotted throughout New Jersey, showing their incredible environmental adaptability.
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife reports that close to 1,500 black bears populated a sample area of 580 square miles in the state. That factors out to 2.56 bears per square mile. In 2005, the estimated population had risen to more than 1,600. Total New Jersey bear numbers fall anywhere between 1,600 and 2,500 animals. In America's most populous state where new construction continues to sprawl into previously undeveloped areas, it appears as though man and bear have become firmly entrenched in each other's worlds.
The Bear Facts
For most people, one of the bonuses of living in a country setting is the opportunity to see wildlife up close and in your backyard. Sometimes people can forget that these creatures are indeed wild. That's where the problems start.
The average male black bear weighs in at around 396 pounds with an average female tilting the scales at 185. With a length of five to six feet and a shoulder height of 30 to 40 inches, that translates into one big anima—the largest land mammal, in fact, in the state.