Bear spotted in Moorestown, veering north

Posted: May 30, 2013

Watch out for the bear hug from the big, hairy guy seen roaming around Mount Laurel and Moorestown.

On Tuesday, Moorestown residents reported sightings of the 5-foot, 400-pound black bear seen over the last several days.

He's been spotted swimming and foraging, and he strolled so close to the Moorestown Mall that, perhaps, he was contemplating a shopping spree.

More likely, officials say, he's looking for love.

"They're looking for a place to live and looking for a mate," said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

This time of year, he said, males compete for territory.

Hajna said he couldn't say for sure, but most likely the Burlington bear, which seems to be traveling alone, is a male. It's no surprise he has stayed close to water, where skunk cabbage grows.

"They love it," he said.

Although bears are concentrated mostly in the northwestern part of the state, there have been sightings in all 21 counties. Based on a 2012 analysis, the population estimate for the area north of I-80 and west of I-287 was about 3,000, according to the department.

It is rare, however, for the burly animals, which can weigh up to 600 pounds, to wander into residential neighborhoods.

"First and foremost, don't feed the bear," Hajna said. If given treats, the Burlington bear may decide to stay where he doesn't belong. If scared, he could be dangerous.

"Bear attacks on people in New Jersey?" Hajna asked. "It's really, really rare."

On its website, the DEP reports that the last fatal attack by a bear on a person in the state was in 1852. Officials say it's still important to use common sense, and keep a close eye on pets and children when bears are reported in residential areas.

"Avoid the bear. You don't want to aggravate it," said Moorestown Police Lt. Lee Lieber, who has been tracking the Burlington bear. "They're usually wary of people."

The bear was seen Tuesday afternoon near Lenola Road and Winthrop Avenue, not far from the Pennsauken Creek.

Authorities in the area called the Division of Fish and Wildlife for help, but authorities there said they respond only if bears are harassing people.

Residents who see the bear can call their local police, or 911 in the case of an emergency. There is also a 24-hour nonemergency hotline - 877-927-6337, option 2 - to report a wildlife nuisance.


Contact Barbara Boyer

at 856-779-3838, bboyer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @BBBoyer.

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