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Spring Weather Signals The Return Of Black Bears To Sussex County

FRANKLIN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Bears are back in the Garden State, and residents say that this year the dumpster-diving animals are getting too close for comfort.

"We've had bears around for years and lately it's just been out of hand," Franklin resident Monica Hood told CBS 2's Vanessa Murdock on Friday.

To curb the problem traps have been set in the woods where bears have been known to roam, but some residents said that the return of the animals is no big deal.

"I don't really have a big reaction, because I've been seeing these bears all my life," said 12-year-old Juliana Hood.

On Friday morning Hood snapped a series of pictures of a 400-pound black bear that was caught in a trap near her home.

Experts told CBS 2 that the traps are only a temporary solution and are intended to keep everybody, including the bears, safe.

"We catch them, we use our bear dogs, and rubber buckshot, non-lethal rounds," biologist Kelcey Berguess said.

Burguess is part of the Black Bear Project. CBS 2's cameras followed him to another trap in Highland Lakes, where bacon and chocolate sauce were used to help lure the bear inside. That particular trap was set in the path of a bear who had been causing problems for homeowner Rob Slockbower.

"They come around in the evening and flip the dumpster over, and drag the trash out into the woods," he said.

The quick fix for Slockbower was securing his dumpster. He said he's been bear-free for a week. Now, the proposed "Bear Smart Bill" would make it the law to secure trash in black bear territory.

"It would require them to retrofit their dumpsters. It's not that expensive, $150 compared to a $1,000 fine," said The Bear Education Resource Group's Angi Melter.

In the meantime, Melter advises residents to do their best to keep the bears out.

"Keep attractants away from your home so you don't bring bears in. Use bear-resistant garbage cans," she said.

Experts said that if you do come face to face with a bear, do not run away screaming, and don't look it directly in the eye.

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