AC Press front page Area gets its share of bear sightings


Mar 31, 2003
Nugentown NJ
June 11, 2004

Area gets its share of bear sightings
A young black bear has been sighted four times in the past two days as far south as Hammonton in Atlantic County, a state official said Thursday.

"The first sighting was yesterday (Wednesday) at 7 a.m. in Batsto and Wharton State Forest," said Elaine Makatura, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP.

"We had another report this morning at 8:30," she said.

Makatura said that although the bear is active, it appears nonthreatening. She said the department evaluates each report of a bear sighting based on the behavior of the bear and decides whether any action is needed by the department.

"Action could include euthanasia," Makatura said. But because the bear appears healthy and is traveling, the department has not had to respond to it as a nuisance animal.

"People need to remember that a bear is wildlife and not approach it," Makatura said. "They should stay away from a bear the same way they would a skunk. They're pretty to look at but dangerous to get near."

Glenn Wright, a recently retired Absecon police sergeant, got a close look at the bear Thursday morning. He drives a bus for First Student and delivers students to Greenbank Elementary School, about 10 miles north of Egg Harbor City, just on the other side of the Mullica River.

As Wright pulled up to the first house on his route at 302 Bulltown Road at 8 a.m., standing its ground in the middle of the road was the young black bear, eyeballing the bus.

"I pulled up, and he stood in the road and looked at me for about 10 seconds," Wright said. "As I inched up closer, he ran off to the side of the road, and looked at me for maybe another 15 seconds. I knew a little girl was going to come out of the house, so I beeped the horn, and he ran off."

Wright figures the bear weighs about 150 pounds. "I weigh 250," Wright said. "He was smaller than me."

Makatura said the reports received by the state DEP have estimated the bear at 100 to 200 pounds.

This isn't the first time a bear has been seen in southern New Jersey, but bears are still rare. In November, the state DEP confirmed the first sighting in memory of a black bear in Cape May County's Belleplain State Forest.

Just last month, Manchester police and state conservation officers attempted to track a black bear seen in the Whiting section of Ocean County. There also were law-enforcement reports of black bears spotted a couple of days earlier in Lacey and Barnegat townships.

Makatura said that the DEP has received recent reports of other bear sightings closer to southern New Jersey. "We've heard of sightings in Burlington County," she said. "We've had anecdotal sightings farther south of Mercer County - a bit outside of bear country."

Makatura said bears are active in the spring, and are beginning to spread south. Makatura said residents who see a bear should contact local law-enforcement officials.

Nuisance bears, or any wildlife that does damage, should be reported to the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife at (908) 735-8793.

To e-mail David Benson at The Press


Anybody else thinking that is a lot of bear sightings in such a close time??? Makes ya wonder why so many and why all of the sudden......huh?
I still believe they were a few here before--but I don't think I'd exclude the possibility that we may have had a purposeful increase in numbers...what do all of you think?