Monday, November 24, 2008

NJ: A Reminder That We Have Bears

Monday, November 24: It was a "heat wave" today compared to yesterday, reaching 41F. With freezing rain moving in tonight I decided to get a ride in.

Having seen a black bear behind my home a few years ago I wasn't surprised to see the BEAR RESPONSE vehicle from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife along my route responding to a homeowner; the division is responsible for managing the growing black bear population and responding to black bear complaints.

The American Black Bear is native to New Jersey and is the largest land mammal in the "Garden State". New Jersey's adult male black bears weigh on average 400 pounds; their weight can range from 150 pounds to over 600 pounds. Adult females weigh on average 175 pounds; their weight can range from 150 pounds to over 400 pounds. Adult black bears are about 3 feet high when on all four paws and can range from 5 feet to 7 feet tall when standing. Black bears can be many different colors, ranging from brown to black. Most black bears in New Jersey are black, but there has been one documented black bear in the state that is cinnamon brown in color.

Prior to European settlement, black bears lived in forested regions throughout the state. Native Americans, such as the Lenni Lenape, used the black bear as a natural resource for items such as food, shelter and medicine.

As European settlement occurred throughout the state, forests were cleared for farming, lumber, and towns. Black bears came to be regarded as vermin because of damage to settlers' crops and livestock. Loss of habitat and indiscriminate killing caused the black bear population to sharply decline throughout the 1800s. By the mid-1900s, fewer than 100 black bears remained and these were limited to remote northern areas of the state. Since the late 1970s the Garden State's black bear population has been increasing and expanding its range from the forested areas of northwestern New Jersey both southward and eastward. The growing population was primarily due to increased black bear habitat as agriculture lands reverted to mature forests, protection afforded by game animal status, and increasing bear populations in Pennsylvania and New York which pushed animals into the state.

Today, an estimated 1,600+ black bears can be found throughout the state with the primary bear range being that area north of Interstate 80 and west of Interstate 287 in Sussex, Warren, Passaic and Morris counties.

Photos: BEAR RESPONSE vehicle (note the chamber in the rear were captured bears are placed in) along River Road, black bear distribution in New Jersey, a black bear
Hey, be careful out on the roads when you are eating that Powerbar.....

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