WANAQUE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Residents are on edge after what seems like a recent increase in black bear encounters in parts of New Jersey.

One neighborhood near the Ramapo Mountain State Forest in Wanaque has always had its share of black bears. But recently, the bears have been making themselves at home in backyards and driveways.

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“I won’t let my kids outside alone,” resident Joyce Miller told 1010 WINS’ John Montone. “Everything is safety in numbers.”

For years, Miller said the bears kept their distance and if they didn’t, she would just bang a couple of garbage can lids.

“They would get away from it,” she said. “They didn’t want any part of it.”

According to Rutgers University wildlife ecologist Brook Maslo, developing suburbs have crossed into what is typically “bear country.”

“And so we’re going to have more human bear interactions. But of course most of those interactions are benign,” Maslo said.

On Oct. 26, a 2-year-old bear stirred up some commotion in Morristown after getting stuck in a tree in the middle of a populated downtown square. It took several hours for officials to get the animal out of the tree, after several attempts.

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Earlier in October, Ramapo Mountain State Forest had to close down access to hikers after eight people were chased by a black bear.

The park was reopened shortly after, but officials speculate that hikers’ interactions with the bears — like feeding them — have caused them to be less afraid of humans.

“The negative bear encounters that we’ve seen, or the habituated bears, is still a rare occurrence,” Maslo said.

Angie Metler of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey said the bears are being misunderstood as aggressive while for the most part, they’re just looking for food.

“The bears are acting naturally,” Metler said.

But for Miller, she says for the first time in 15 years, she’s afraid of the bears.

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For more information about black bears from New Jersey wildlife officials, click here.