Bear Kinship

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Bear unjustly killed in Rockaway Township

Bear killed near school in Rockaway Twp.
Authorities feared danger to children

By Meghan Van Dyk
Daily Record

ROCKAWAY TWP. -- Authorities killed a bear on Tuesday night after it resisted efforts to chase it away from an area near an elementary school, officials said on Wednesday.

Police received calls during the day about a black bear wandering through the township and tracked it to the Dennis B. O'Brien Elementary School on Mineral Spring Drive at 1:40 p.m. after a school employee called in the sighting, according to Lt. John Czohla, a department spokesman.

He said police were concerned about the safety of the schoolchildren.
Police tried using averse conditioning techniques to chase the bruin away from the school, said Darlene Yuhas, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

It was unclear whether the bear ran away and soon returned or whether it never left the area. Police and DEP officers who handled the case were not available on Wednesday.

Yuhas said the DEP was called and when state workers arrived, the bear climbed a tree in the wooded area between the school and Peterson Field off Fleetwood Drive, near Route 80.

It remained in the tree until about 7:30 p.m., when DEP officers euthanized it because it had been deemed a Category 1 bear, Yuhas said.

"The bear was identified by local police as a threat," Yuhas said. "The fact that it returned showed that (the averse conditioning) had no effect on the bear -- that's a cause for concern."

Typically, rubber bullets or pyrotechnics are used for averse conditioning so bears will be frightened away and not want to return near people. When a bear is killed, the procedure is to tranquilize it before it is shot.

A Category 1 bear is one that attempts to break into a home or vehicle, attack pets or livestock or causes property damage, Yuhas said.
State policy also calls for bears that exhibit behavior that is an immediate threat to humans, crops or livestock to be considered a Category 1 bear, meaning it is killed.

Nuisance bears that eat garbage but are not a threat to life or property are considered Category 2 bears. Those are captured, adversely conditioned using rubber bullets or pyrotechnics and released onto the nearest state land.

In a statement released on Wednesday, unrelated to the Rockaway Township incident, DEP officials said bears begin breeding this month. That means male black bears roam long distances in search of mates, increasing the likelihood of encounters with residents unaccustomed to seeing the animals, the statement said.

Bear sightings in residential areas are not considered a problem if the bears are exhibiting normal behavior and are not creating a nuisance or threatening public safety, the DEP said.

"A bear spotted roaming in a community in most cases will move right on through without incident," DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson said in the statement.

Bears that learn to associate food with people readily become a nuisance, are more likely to damage property or exhibit aggression, and usually are destroyed to protect the public, the statement said.

"Bears can't resist an easy meal, so avoid tempting them with unsecured garbage cans or Dumpsters, bird feeders, pet-food bowls left outside or even stale bread scattered on the lawn," Jackson said.

It's illegal in the state to feed black bears, and violators may face a penalty of up to $1,000 for each offense.

For the second consecutive year, state conservation officers this spring are canvassing communities to boost public awareness about the bear-feeding ban and to make sure residents and business owners are doing all they can to avoid problems, the DEP said.

Residents who suddenly encounter a bear should remain calm. Do not feed the bear, and do not run. Make sure the bear has an escape route. Avoid direct eye contact, back up slowly and speak with a low, assertive voice.


Dear Members,

We are sorry to report that a bear has been needlessly and unjustly killed on Tuesday night in Rockaway Township. The article is above.

Today, BEAR Group member, Arlene, was interviewed at the scene by a reporter from Channel 9 News.

Upon investigation of the area, much uncontained garbage was found in the woods surrounding the school and athletic fields. It is obvious that the bear found garbage sources, and dragged the garbage into the woods for privacy. Herein lay the root of the problem.

The bear was not interested in people or the children, and there was no reason whatsoever to believe the bear was a danger. Rather, this bear was the normal and typical opportunistic feeder and took advantage of easy access to food. This was NOT a Category I bear, should not have been killed, and should not be labeled and computed into the state's statistics as such.

You can see the interview tonight on Channel 9, at 5 PM, 9 PM, and/or 10 PM.

Please stay tuned for an action alert to make our vehement opposition known about the needless killing of this innocent bear.

Special thanks to Arlene for immediately responding to the call to appear at the scene, for being interviewed by the reporter, and for identifying the root of the problem.

Thank you all,


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