Wayward Black Bear Toured Barnegat: What You Should Know

Archived Photo courtesy Eddie Dellova

  BARNEGAT – A black bear strolling the streets of Barnegat recently became an instant social media sensation with reports of multiple sightings in local neighborhoods.

  Barnegat Township Police Chief Keith Germain pointed out that living on the edge of the 1.1 million-acre Pine Barrens comes with occasional unannounced visits from neighbors who lived here before people moved in. As a result, it’s not unusual for the police department to receive calls about sightings of coyotes and timber rattlesnakes.

  Germain acknowledged the American black bear’s appearance was novel enough to give it celebrity status. According to the police chief, the bear made a few stops before making its way into the woods east of Route 9 towards Lower Shore Road.

  The adventures of Barnegat’s black bear came without injury or harm.

  “My husband was running at the high school track about thirty minutes ago when he spotted a bear,” posted Zakiya Gibbons Del Orbe on Facebook. “Luckily, a township policeman happened to be parked in the parking lot. He notified the police, who then contacted animal control.”

  From all appearances, the bear didn’t hang around the high school very long. Instead, he moved on to check out Project Playground before exploring the rest of the area.

  Joshua Crandal was in his truck traveling from Route 9 on Barnegat Boulevard North and had just passed the traffic light at Bengal Boulevard. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the bear come running out of the woods and crossed the street in the direction of Rose Hill Road.

  “My husband called me at 11:11 am,” said Kellyanne Crandal. “I reported it to the police department exactly a minute later.”

Photo by Randi Dellova

  Within minutes, the Barnegat Police Department sent out a Nixlie alert to warn the public about the bear roaming through town. Around that same time, the bear decided to make a more personal visit.

  As he was outside gardening in one of the side streets off Rose Hill, Eddie Dellova looked up and spotted the bear slowly walking into the backyard.

  “We have two fences because we have a pool,” said Dellova. “I quickly jumped headfirst over the fence in the pool area because I wanted to get something between us.”

  According to Dellova, the bear turned around and looked at him before making his next move.

  “He started walking towards the length of my fence inside,” Dellova shared. “He then climbed over my neighbor’s fence and kept going from there.”

  Various sightings found the bear near the rail trail on Rosehill Road traveling southbound. He ultimately made it to the downtown area behind the East Bay Grill before heading to Lower Shore Road.

  Although some have claimed the bear was skinny and looked malnourished, Dellova disagreed. Instead, he said the animal was a fat, healthy, and beautiful looking bear.

  The appearance of black bears in the area continues to take many by surprise. Most recently, bears were spotted in neighborhoods in Toms River, Howell, Lakewood and Little Egg Harbor.

  Two years ago, a black bear roamed the parking lot by the McDonald’s on Route 72 in Stafford. The bear climbed up a tree by the movie theater as people were awestruck by the sight of it.

  While some wonder if bears are wandering into the area to escape recent forest fires, others feel certain overdevelopment has them in search of new homes. Some suggest it’s not just humans relocating to the shore area from North Jersey.

  According to Larry Hajna of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Division, there’s no truth to the rumor that black bears from northern counties have been tranquilized and moved to the Pine Barrens.

  “Bears have been moving out of their core habitat in the northwestern part of the state for many years,” said Hajna. “They are now found in 21 counties in New Jersey.”

  A map on the state’s website documents confirms bear sightings as of 2020. The areas along the shoreline represented the newest influx of the largest land mammal found in the state.

  “The biological dynamics at play basically are that the younger male bears strike out to find their own habitat,” Hajna explained. “They do so because they can’t compete with the existing males in the area.”

  Although he could not confirm it with certainty, Hajna said there was a pretty good chance the bear seen in Barnegat was most likely a young male. Yearlings who are a year or two have just broken away from their mothers in search of their own habitat. The young bears are also on the lookout for a mate of their own.

A black bear decided to take a rest beneath a hammock at one residence. (Photo courtesy Eddie Dellova)

  According to Hajna, bears who enter residential areas are generally not aggressive. They are in search of food and gravitate to garbage cans, birdseed and any kind of animal food.

  “Even a grill can attract a hungry bear,” said Hajna. “They have an extraordinary keen sense of smell that spans miles.”

  The New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife released the following tips on how to stay safe from bears:

  • Never feed a bear. Deliberately feeding bears puts pets and other residents in the neighborhood at risk.
  • Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
  • Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.
  • Bring pets in at night.
  • Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other prey.
  • Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.
  • Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
  • Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings – this reduces protective cover for bears and makes the area less attractive.
  • If a bear is present, make sure they know they’re not welcome. Make loud noises, blast a canned air siren.

There were also sightings reported in Toms River, Howell, Lakewood, Manahawkin and Little Egg Harbor in the last few weeks.

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Stephanie A. Faughnan is an award-winning journalist associated with Micromedia Publications/Jersey Shore Online and the director of Writefully Inspired. Recognized with two Excellence in Journalism awards by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, Stephanie's passion lies in using the power of words to effect positive change. Her achievements include a first-place award in the Best News Series Print category for the impactful piece, "The Plight Of Residents Displaced By Government Land Purchase," and a second-place honor for the Best Arts and Entertainment Coverage category, specifically for "Albert Music Hall Delivers Exciting Line-Up For 25th Anniversary Show." Stephanie can be contacted by email at stephanienjreporter@gmail.com.