Black Bear spotted near Evesham and Medford in NJ

Black bear sighting in Medford

Jun 8th, at 9:40am

by Dubravka Kolumbic

MEDFORD—A black bear lives in Waterford—and apparently Medford, too. A large black bear was spotted in Medford in the Highbridge neighborhood the evening of June 7, according to resident Rob Simalchik, who took a photo of the bear as it was lounging in his neighbor's yard on Poleridge Park at about 5:30 p.m. He guessed the bear to be about 300 or more pounds and most likely a male.

“It was fascinating,” Simalchik said of the bear encounter. He and his neighbors made sure to keep a safe distance from the bear, who didn’t seem to be in a rush to leave. That is until the noise of Simalchik, his neighbors and the Medford police who had been called to the scene became too much for the bear.

“He just got up and sauntered off,” Simalchik recalled.

Simalchik, who is an avid hiker, did not seem too upset by the bear sighting but did point out that he would not be running with his dog in the nearby Wharton State Forest anytime soon.

According to Medford Police Lt. Jeff Wagner, the bear did get into some garbage, but that was all. The police followed him along Harwood Way until he wandered off into Wharton State Forest, which borders the neighborhood. A Nixle alert and reverse 911 was sent out to residents that evening advising them of the sighting.

“They are native to New Jersey,” Wagner said of black bears. “We’ve seen an increase in the last couple of years in South Jersey.” He recalled the last sighting of a black bear was on Saw Mill Road about 10 years ago.

“We advise residents to secure their garbage and just keep an eye on small children or pets,” Wagner said. And of course, contact police about any close encounters or nuisance bears, Wagner added.

Other than that, it seems to be just a matter of accepting that the bears are residents, too, and learning to live with them.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife is aware of the black bears that live in South Jersey and, according to the Waterford Township Police, a family of black bears has been living behind the Atco Raceway on Jackson Road for a few years now. A black bear was spotted wandering around the township in the area of Ellwood, Richards and Linden avenues on June 6, according to the police. Police said they edged the bear back into the woods off Jackson Road near the raceway.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife was monitoring the bear, police said, but had no intention of moving it or harming it. Nearby Thomas Richards Elementary School was put on lockdown and Archway School was advised of the bear sighting. Waterford Township borders Medford and Evesham townships.

According to the NJDEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, black bears are native to the state, but as their population has been increasing over the years, so has their presence in South Jersey. There have been confirmed black bears sightings in each of the state’s 21 counties, according to the NJDEP.

According to the NJDEP, black bears tend to avoid humans and attacks by black bears are extremely rare, however, they offer the following bear safety tips:

—Never feed or approach a bear.

—Remain calm if you encounter a bear. 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 and 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.

—If the bear does not leave, move to a secure area.

To report a bear sighting or damage caused by a bear, call the NJDEP’s 24-hour, toll free hotline at 1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337).

This article was updated June 8, 2012.