MAHWAH, N.J. -- An increase in black bear activity in Ramapo Mountain State Forest has prompted a warning from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife and State Park Service.
Last weekend two hikers on the White Trail reported an encounter with a potentially aggressive black bear and a third hiker and his dog came within 15 feet of one.
State Park Police and Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers set a culvert trap, but the bear’s whereabouts were unknown.
The White Trail was closed until further notice. Officials said other portions of the park, straddling Passaic and Bergen counties north of Interstate 287, may be closed at ther discretion.
If you see a bear, in particular one that does not show much fear, immediately call the DEP hotline at (877) 927-6337, or (877) WARN-DEP.
Officials remind hikers that black bear attacks are very rare. However, if one does attack, the best advice is to play dead and don’t fight back. If a bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer, it is usually not a threatening behavior.
Warning signs that you are getting too close: the bear utters a series of huffs, makes popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swatting the ground.
Families who live in areas frequented by black bears should have a "Bear Plan" in place for children, with an escape route.
Other important rules for what to do if you encounter a bear:
- Do not feed or approach a bear;
- Do not make eye contact;
- Do not run from it -- back away slowly;
- Remain calm;
- Make your presence known by speaking loudly, singing, clapping your hands, or making other loud noises -- such as yelling, blowing a whistle, banging pots and pans, or using an air horn.
- Make sure the bear has an escape route.
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