PHOTOS: It’s become Bear Week 2014 in Bergen and beyond. From Wyckoff to Wayne, sightings are being reported and bears are being pursued by people trying to capture images — including one that drew a media throng to Ridgewood today.
Police and animal control officers hoped to keep the 350-to-400-pound black bear in place after it climbed a tree across from the Ridge Elementary School on West Ridgewood Avenue — at least until state fish and wildlife agents could end the standoff.
Things didn’t go as planned, however.
Tranquilizer darts missed, so the agents tried blasting the bear with water — and even hoped news choppers might scare the critter down. Their dog, Thor, at one point grew tired of the escapade and took a rest.
Eventually the beleaguered bruin shimmied earthward on its own, toddled off and scaled a tree on nearby Godwin Avenue (photos top and below).
The ordeal (for the bear), which began around 9 a.m. finally ended when a dart hit its mark and the target tumbled from the tree around 2:45 p.m.
It was big news for some media outlets three months ago when a cub was literally caught near a grade school in Paramus after falling from a tree ( SEE: Bear cub in Paramus tree tranquilized ).
There were at least two different bears spotted in Wyckoff yesterday, amping coverage.
Bears are commonplace in Bergen County. But people have given the latest sightings a different context, following a rogue bear’s killing of a hiking Rutgers student in the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford last month — the first recorded deadly bear attack in New Jersey in a century and a half.
As a result, some residents inexperienced with bears are becoming increasingly concerned — unnecessarily so, experts note — for the safety of their children and themselves.
It leaves police in the position of trying to give bears the space they need to move on without incident while protecting a skittish public.
Education is a huge help.
“Yes, they are wild animals, but [are] generally shy and steer clear of confrontation,” said Victoria Lynn Ernest of North Arlington. “All of their land is being developed. Where are they supposed to go?”
People in Sussex and other counties beyond Bergen and Passaic have co-existed with bears a long time. Some keep on exterior lights at night, while others lock down the lids on their trash cans.
“They are trying to get as much food as they can before they go into hibernation,” said Patti Laughlin Van Lenten. “Use your common sense & stay away.”
Still, there are parents with little children, with pets, who live in areas not known as bear hangouts — Wyckoff, among them.
It wasn’t always this way in New York’s bedroom communities. Increasing rural and “ex-urban” development have flushed wildlife out of what once were woods.
What had been an alarmingly dwindling bear population forced state officials more than 40 years ago to ban hunting them before staging annual bear hunts beginning in 2010. The most recent statistics, however, show an increasing population of nearly 3,500 in northwest Jersey alone.
Figure in the two to five cubs a female has every two years and the likelihood of bear sightings naturally goes up.
At the same time, experts say the potential for conflict increases in those instances only when humans don’t give bears a reasonable berth.
What do YOU think? Have your own photos?
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