Multiple Black Bear Sightings Reported in Southern Monmouth, Northern Ocean Counties

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Black Bear - Stock Photo

TOMS RIVER, NJ – The Toms River Police Department has warned its residents of a bear sighting in the area of Winding River Park on Saturday. The bear was spotted in the Oak Ridge section of town. According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the bear is suspected to be the same one that was spotted earlier in Howell and Lakewood.

“Please be aware of bear sightings in the Oak Ridge section of town last night. We have been in contact with the Department of Environmental Protection and they advised us they’ve been tracking the bear through multiple towns,” the department said. “He has not been aggressive and they believe he will continue to move west and out of town by the day’s end.”

A bear was also spotted in Lakewood on the campus of Georgian Court University before heading into the woods near Lake Carasaljo just west of the downtown section of the city.

“Campus Safety observed a bear on campus. The bear was observed near the guardhouse at the front entrance of campus and was walking along the fence line at Ninth St. The bear is currently off-campus and walking along the lake at North Lake Drive,” the Lakewood Police Department reported.

While the Toms River Police Department and New Jersey DEP believe the bear is the same one being tracked, a report by the Howell Police Department suggests otherwise.

At the same time the bear was reported in Toms River, the Howell Township Police Department issued its own bear sighting warning.

Early Saturday morning, Howell Police said, “We have received a report of a bear sighting from a Sugarbush Road resident (in the Candlewood section). This person indicated he observed a bear in the woods about 3 hours ago.”

For the sighting to be the same bear, it would have been in Lakewood on Friday, walked north toward the Manasquan Reservoir in Howell overnight, before heading south into Toms River Saturday afternoon.

For now, Shore News Network has unofficially named the bear, “Kevin”, a fitting name for a wild bear on the loose in Toms River.

Another bear sighting was reported at the Ocean County Golf Course at Atlantis earlier this week.

Black Bear sightings in New Jersey have increased in recent years in part to preservation efforts and also due to the moratorium on hunting the bears implemented by Governor Phil Murphy. Murphy ended the annual black bear hunting season in 2021 and despite a sharp increase in sightings and close encounters, the governor has rejected all requests to restore the hunt in 2022.

According to the NJ DEP, black bears are the largest land mammal in New Jersey. They are an integral part of the state’s natural heritage and a vital component of healthy ecosystems.

“Since the 1980s the Garden State’s black bear population has been increasing and expanding its range both southward and eastward from the forested areas of northwestern New Jersey,” the NJ DEP said. “Within the most densely populated state in the nation, black bears are thriving and there are now confirmed bear sightings in all 21 of New Jersey’s counties.”

The NJ DEP advises that the most common bear problem New Jersey’s residents experience is black bears getting into their garbage. Bears are attracted to neighborhoods by garbage odors, so properly securing your garbage is one of the best ways to prevent bears from becoming a nuisance in your community.

The NJ DEP shared the following information regarding black bear encounters:

  • 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.

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.

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).