Beware of black bears. They're out of hibernation and searching for food -- and mates.
That's the message from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to suburban communities near bear habitats.
True, the animals are more likely to run away from humans -- but not always, and pets can become a food source.
"He played with the rabbit and, of course, killed then went off," he elaborated matter of factly.
The state's Department of Environmental Protection has issued a list of bear essentials for protecting life and property.
Among the recommendations:
- Put garbage in bear tight tamper resistant containers.
- Keep the containers near the back wall of the garage or in a storage shed until garbage pick up day.
- Clean backyard grills after use to minimize food odors that may attract bears.
- Don't leave pets or pet food in the yard unattended.
- Place bird feeders at least 10 feet off the ground.
- Don't feed bears. They could bite the hand that does so or visit on a regular basis.
Marian Szal also of Wayne saw a black bear through her patio door window in March. Her Border Collie mix was in the backyard.
"We found the dog by the fence. We didn't even get to say goodbye," Szal lamented. The bear was later captured and euthanized.
Bear sightings have increased in suburban New Jersey communities in recent years. Wildlife experts say a bear wandering into a community doesn't have to be a problem If people respond appropriately and call authorities right away.