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Bears In Suburbia: Are Humans To Blame? NJ Wildlife Experts Weigh In

NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork) -- Wildlife experts are weighing in on what seems like a recent increase in bear encounters in New Jersey forests and even in suburban areas.

Exactly how many bears there are around New Jersey has been debated, but everyone agrees there seems to be more.

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

"And so we're going to have more human bear interactions. But of course most of those interactions are benign," Maslo told WCBS 880's Levon Putney.

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 offficials to get the animal out of the tree, after several attempts.

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

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.

Officials from New Jersey's Division of Fish and Wildlife agree.

In October, access to the forest was shut down after eight people were chased by a black bear and other hikers reporter similar encounters. 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.


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