Parsippany Police report that the town's 9-1-1 line received a number of calls this weekend regarding sightings of a bear in the Lake Parsippany area.
The department, which has specially trained "bear officers" on staff, has safety tips on dealing with the animals for the community.
These guidelines for what to do should a bear enter your yard:
• Remain calm. Make the bear aware of your presence.
• Never feed the bear, keep in mind that bird feeders also feed bears.
• Keep at least 15 feet away from the bear.
• Make sure the bear has an escape route.
• Yell, bang pots and pans or use an airhorn to scare the bear away.
• Note that the bear may utter a series of huffs, snap its jaw and swat the ground. These are all warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away.
• If the bear will not leave, notify the police immediately.
Remember, use common sense in a bear encounter— never approach the animal!
• If a bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer it may be trying to get a better view or detect smells in the air. Make your presence known by clapping, talking or waving your arms
• Black bears will sometimes “bluff charge” when cornered, threatened or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, then slowly back away. Do not run from the bear
• If you encounter a bear at close range, remain standing upright, avoid direct eye contact and slowly back away.
The PPD also recommends making your yard "bear-proof."
• Storing garbage in an airtight container in a secure area is the best method for prevention of nuisance problems. Garbage cans should be stored inside the home or in a shed until the morning of pick up or be equipped with bear-proof lids.
• Wash garbage containers at least once a week with a disinfectant solution to remove any odors
• The outside feeding of dogs and cats should be done during daylight hours. All uneaten food scraps, as well as the food bowl, should be removed immediately after feeding.
• Birdfeeders should be suspended from a free hanging wire so that the bottom of the bird feeder is at least 8 feet off the ground.
Black bears learn very quickly, police warned, and if they think you have food, they could turn aggressive. This may lead to personal injury, property damage and the need to destroy problem animals, police said.
Police said the mere presence of a black bear is not considered a problem. But if the animal is unyielding or aggressive, you are urged to contact the police.
The PPD “bear officers” use a system of “Adverse Conditioning” and coercion, which involves using loud noises and tracking of the animal in an attempt to move the bear away from the public. If verbal conditioning and coercion do not work, police said non-lethal rubber buck shot rounds may be discharged, but only if the surrounding area is clear and safe. And the goal is not to kill the bear: Police said the rounds are fired at the bear's hindquarters and only cause minor discomfort.
Police said lethal force is used only a last resort if the officer feels that a bear's aggression puts the public in imminent danger.
For more information on New Jersey’s black bears, visit the NJ Division of Fish and Game website at www.njfishandwildlife.com.