PEQUANNOCK, NJ (AP / CBSNewYork) – New Jersey wildlife officials say black bears are entering their most active period of the year as they search for food and mates.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell: Don’t Play Dead

That means encounters between the bruins and humans will become more likely, especially in northwestern areas.

Officials are reminding residents that feeding the bears is illegal and punishable by fines of up to $1,000.

They’re also urging people to secure trash cans and items such as pet food or bird seed that might attract bears.

“Bears get their food near homes from trash, from pet bowls (your cat or dog’s pet bowl), your bird feeders,” says Larry Ragonese of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

He says that if they do show up, they’re rarely aggressive.

“If a black bear should attack you, don’t play dead. You want to fight back,” he tells WCBS 880 reporter Peter Haskell. “You want to yell. You want to shout. You want to take some steps, grab a branch, do something. Be aggressive.”

New Jersey’s black bear population has grown in recent years, with bear sightings reported in all 21 counties.

It’s believed there are now more than 3,400 bears in New Jersey, with most living in the northwest corner of the state.

“That portion of [New] Jersey has more black bears per square mile than any other place in the U.S.” says Ragonese.
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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