Be advised, multiple black bears have been seen wandering in Mercer County. While there is no need for alarm, caution is advised.
Black bears are most active shortly before sunrise and again after sunset. However, they can be active during the day and may be active throughout the night. If you should encounter a black bear in your neighborhood or outdoors while hiking or camping, follow these common-sense safety tips:
- Do not feed bears!
- Never feed or approach a bear!
- Remain calm if you encounter a bear. Do not run from it; running may trigger a chase response.
- If you encounter a bear that is feeding, do not approach it and slowly back away. A bear on a food source will aggressively defend it.
- From a safe distance, make the bear aware of your presence by speaking in an assertive voice, singing, clapping your hands, or making other noises.
- Make sure the bear has an escape route.
- If a bear enters your home or garage, provide it with an escape route by propping all doors open.
- Avoid direct eye contact, which may be perceived by a bear as a challenge. Never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away.
- To scare the bear away, make loud noises by yelling, banging pots and pans or using an airhorn. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pairs or groups of people should stay together and perform these actions as a unit when they encounter a bear; do not separate and do not move in different directions.
- If the bear does not leave, move to a secure area.
- Report black bear damage or nuisance behavior to the DEP's 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337).
- Families who live in areas frequented by black bears should have a "Bear Plan" in place for children, with an escape route and planned use of whistles and air horns.
Black bear attacks are extremely rare. If a black bear does attack, fight back! Aim for the snout and/or eyes. Use anything at hand: (knife, sticks, rocks, binoculars, backpack or kick the bear.) Immediately notify local police (9-1-1) and NJ's Division of Fish & Wildlife at 1-877-WARN-DEP (24 hr., toll-free).
More bear resources can be found on NJDEP's website