Bear unjustly killed in Rockaway Township
Bear killed near school in Rockaway Twp.
Authorities feared danger to children
By Meghan Van Dyk
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
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
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
We are sorry to report that a bear has been needlessly
and unjustly killed on Tuesday night in Rockaway Township. The article
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
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,
ABOUT US (about the
organization's founders and our goals)
ABOUT BEARS (bear facts, biology, behavior,
BEARS AND HUMANS (all about bear human relations,
from pre-history to today and into the future)
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? (campaigns and causes)
BEAR DISCUSSION (bear forum)
LINKS (links to other