By Oren Liebermann
MEDFORD, N.J. (CBS) – On the edge of Wharton State Forest in Medford Lakes, spotting wildlife is common. But seeing a 200-300 pound black bear is not.
“We’ve seen deer. We’ve seen turkey. We’ve seen pheasants,” said Pete Ignelzi. “But never a bear.”
Ignelzi got a call from his neighbor about a bear in his backyard on Thursday afternoon. The bear had already torn apart his neighbor’s birdfeeders. Ignelzi was curious enough to go out of his garage and snap pictures before the bear wandered off into the woods.
“I open the garage door. I take a picture of the bear, and when I took a picture, he stopped and looked at me,” remembers Ignelzi. “That was a little disarming.”
The Department of Environmental Protection says bear sightings are down this year. Bears have been sighted in all 21 counties in New Jersey, but most sightings are in Northwestern Jersey, not South Jersey where this one showed up.
“He was big, but he didn’t do anything,” said Mary Jones.
The bear came out again Friday morning, knocking over trash cans and looking for food along Sawmill Road, near a Girl Scout camp that’s not yet open for summer. This time, the bear wandered into the Jones’ backyard.
“I was like ‘Oh my God, the bear is on our tennis court,’” said Jones. “So I called the police.”
Experts say the bear is not aggressive and will not attack people unless provoked. It is foraging for food and will leave you alone if you leave it alone.
Still, Medford Police recommend that you follow these guidelines if you see a bear:
• Do not approach or feed the bear
• Make noise so the bear knows you are there
• Refrain from making eye contact with the bear
• Slowly back out of the area
They are also asking that residents secure trash and bird feeders, and watch out for children and pets.
For more information on bear safety, visit New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection website.
Bear sightings should be reported to the police at 609-267-8300.
See photos of the sighting here: http://cbsloc.al/KU0O3g