Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Black Bears Now Out and About

©Bert Gildart: Two nights ago, about 2 a.m., Janie poked me from a deep sleep. “Something is out there,” she whispered.

Rising, I grabbed a flash light, opened the door and shined my light toward a large dark fury object that was munching on the tin cans now spilled from a garbage container.


Hungry black bear

The dark furry object was a black bear and it was only ten feet away (later measured.) The bear ignored me and if I’d been more awake, in retrospect, I should have grabbed my camera; instead, I hollered “scat!” The bear responded by doing just that, a reaction I expected from the summers of working in bear control in Glacier National Park.

But this was not Montana, this was New Jersey, and I later shared the experience with family members where we’re now parked. The conversation then turned to bears in general, providing several more local anecdotes and a general philosophy on bear behavior.


Across the nation, bears are emerging from hibernation, if they have not already done so. In Montana, I once photographed a bear in hibernation as late as March where winters can be exceptionally cold. But here in New Jersey the Connelly’s tell us they’ve seen bears roaming in the woods and sometimes around their rural home in virtually all months except January.


Fighting over food, not dancing

Still, they see them more often as spring progresses, and that jives with bear biology, which suggests that they’re particularly hungry in spring when they shake off the drowsiness of hibernation, whether it is associated with prolonged winter or simply the cold snaps associated with more eastern environs.

Because winters are less severe in New Jersey than in Montana and since this east coast state has the nation’s densest human population–and since bear populations in New Jersey are increasing dramatically, it’s not surprising anecdotes are many.


Kelsey, Cory and Kyle, Janie’s three grandchildren, shared a funny one that occurred at one of their soft ball games. According to Kelsey, who was participating in a school softball game, the evening crowd of parents watched as a large black bear began descending a knoll.


Not all black bears are black, but often brown or even reddish brown.

The response, they said, was funny. “Some people just watched, but others grabbed their kids and ran to their cars, screaming that a wild bear was there to eat them all.”

Most, however, stayed where they were and simply watched as the bear continued its descent and then wandered into another grove of trees, probably searching a new spot for more food. It was spring, after all, and if the bear had recently emerged from a winter sleep, then it was probably hungry.

More than likely that is part of the reason we had a bear just outside our trailer. The other reason is that bears are smart, and this one knows that every Monday morning the county collects garbage.

And, so, just like clockwork bears make their rounds, searching for food.

As it travels, it knocks over anything that even hints of a food odor, just as the can filled with recyclable cans. (Other raw garbage was in the garage, to be pushed to the rural road early in the morning.)


To reduce garbage spills and the possibility that bears may become habituated to people through the association of food, the New Jersey department of Fish and Game has a number of recommendations.

*use a bear-proof garbage can (the Bear Resource Group has a Crittercan program, and some communities will subsidize your purchase)

*if possible, keep garbage indoors until trash day

*don’t put food scraps in your compost pile

*collect fruit from trees once it is ripe

*thoroughly clean barbeques

*don’t feed your pets outdoors

Most of us enjoy watching wildlife, particularly bears, and if we want to continue seeing wildlife that is genuinely wild, these suggestions make sense.



*Alaska Boating Adventure


3 Responses to “Black Bears Now Out and About”

  1. Rich Charpentier Says:

    Bears are always an interesting topic among hikers as well. Always hung my food in bear bags far from my camp site.

    Still, some people don’t get it. During the 90’s there was a regular bear at Desolation Shelter in the Pemi (White Mountains) that was fed by the dumb hikers staying at the shelter. The bear was too comfortable with hikers which led to several bad incidents. Total shame. Not the bear’s fault.

  2. Tony A Says:

    Rich, That’s not quite what happened. Brutus was an old bear. Old bears are smart bears and he had figured out how to raid bear bags and bluff charge hikers into dropping their packs. Hikers were not feeding him.

  3. Bert Gildart Says:

    Old bears may be smart bears, but from my experiences working in GNP as a ranger, food-conditioned bears have to learn somehow, and that’s generally because someone has feed them. If there’s no reward, bears generally avoid people. AT hikers may not have been feeding Brutus, but I’ll bet someone was.

Leave a Reply