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Bear Facts for Municipalities


Every New Jersey community can benefit from learning more about black bears.

Municipal leaders are encouraged to:

  • Educate their residents about ways to avoid attracting bears.
  • Promote use of proper garbage management techniques, including bear-resistant containers.
  • Ensure that residents are aware of how to report black bear damage or nuisance behavior.

Residents should be aware that it is illegal in New Jersey to feed black bears either intentionally or unintentionally. Anyone who feeds bears could face a penalty of up to $1,000 for each offense.


The one page Be Bear Aware (pdf, 96kb) public-safety flyer can be distributed directly to residents to help them learn more about coexisting with bears. The flyer offers simple steps for minimizing the potential for nuisance bears in the neighborhood. It can also help to reduce the number of incidents that must be handled by local police departments or Department of Environmental Protection personnel.


The number-one black bear related complaint received by the Division of Fish and Wildlife each year is black bears getting into trash. Human garbage is attractive to black bears and it is often an easily obtainable, high-energy food source. Residents should be aware that it is illegal to feed black bears in New Jersey, either intentionally or unintentionally. Anyone who feeds bears could face a penalty of up to $1,000 for each offense.

In an effort to increase garbage management efforts within bear habituated communities, municipal officials are encouraged to work with local waste haulers to make certified bear-resistant garbage containers available to residents and businesses. A list of manufacturers who produce bear-resistant trash containers can be found the following link:

Communities frequented by bears and interested in minimizing encounters between people and bears should consider passing a local waste disposal ordinance to further public health and welfare. A town ordinance should require that all trash in residential areas is properly secured in certified bear-resistant containers. If any trash is left unsecured within the community, bears will become trash-habituated and will become a nuisance and possibly aggressive or dangerous.

The following sample waste management ordinance has been developed as a tool for New Jersey's communities with high bear densities. The sample ordinance is based on one that was adopted by Eagle County, Colorado in 2007. The ordinance requires the use of only certified bear-resistant containers and enclosures throughout the community.

Sample Garbage Management Ordinance for Communities (pdf, 35kb)


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).

Division of Fish and Wildlife personnel and municipal police departments are able to respond quickly to residents' complaints about nuisance bears. Since 1998, more than 800 local, county, and state law enforcement officers have completed the Division's Black Bear Response Training Course, taught by state-certified firearms instructors and bear biologists.

Police departments that do not require DEP assistance are asked to log all bear related activity in their database or report by calling 908-735-8793 or faxing the report to 908-735-6161 so that the information can be added to the black bear database. Each police department trained in bear management is asked to complete a yearly survey recording the number of calls their department handled throughout the year.

Division of Fish and Wildlife personnel will relocate bears that venture into urban communities when circumstances warrant such action. After releasing the bear in the nearest state wildlife management area with suitable habitat, the DEP will notify municipal officials.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: August 10, 2009