Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Parks Reopen after Bear Scare

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Parks Reopen after Bear Scare

Article excerpt

Visitors are free to hike the trails again in two of North Jersey's popular park areas, which had been closed for two weeks after multiple reports of aggressive black bears.

State officials decided on Tuesday to reopen both Ramapo Valley Reservation and the Ramapo Mountain State Forest because they were able to capture and kill five bears that they believe had been boldly approaching and following hikers in multiple incidents over the past two months.

Wildlife biologists determined that the bears they captured and killed while the parks were closed had become habituated to people, possibly because visitors or nearby homeowners were illegally feeding them.

An investigation by the state Department of Environmental Protection into the illegal feeding of bears continues, said Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesman.

Bear researchers say the animals normally are afraid of humans but can come to see them as non-threatening if people keep feeding them. When a bear becomes habituated to humans as a food source and not something to fear, bears may act more boldly and try to approach people, not necessarily in an aggressive manner, but merely to seek more food, said Dave Garshelis, a wildlife research scientist and bear project leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The state has installed signs warning hikers and others not to feed the bears in both the 4,200-acre state forest and the 3,300- acre reservation.

While the forest was closed, biologists with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife set up traps and caught five bears. Four of them were killed because they exhibited aggressive behavior; the other showed a natural fear of humans and was released, Hajna said.

Traps were also set up in the reservation, which is Bergen County's largest park area. One bear was caught and killed because it matched a description provided by hikers who had reported being chased by a bear there two weekends ago, Hajna said. …

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