Multiple Bear Sightings in Lakewood, Toms River, Howell After Gov. Murphy Bans Bear Hunting

A rash of bear sightings in the Lakewood region is being partially blamed by some on a black bear hunting moratorium instituted by Governor Phil Murphy in 2021, which he has declined to lift in 2022.

On Friday, a black bear was first spotted in the North Lake Drive area and on Georgian Court University’s campus. It was later seen in other sections of Lakewood.

The Howell and Toms River police departments also put out advisories on Friday and Saturday warning residents of a black bear sighting and urging residents to stay away from it.

All instances of black bear sightings are believed to be of the same bear.

New Jersey’s black bear population has been increasing since the 1980s, and the animals – the largest mammals that call New Jersey home – have been expanding their territory southward and eastward, according the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The New Jersey DEP says to follow these guidelines when seeing a black bear:

  • Black bears by nature tend to be wary of people. However, if you 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, 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.
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