"Whenever a bear is in a situation where it could cause public concern or it’s a public safety issue, DEP responds,” Larry Ragonese, press officer for the Department of Environmental Protection, said during a phone conversation yesterday.
He was answering a series of questions about the “Exit 8 bear,” who was tranquilized and removed from a tree near the turnpike last Friday, then relocated to the Assunpink wildlife management area.
Nearby drivers, who could see the bear perched in the tree, were distracted, Ragonese said, and to prevent traffic tie-ups or accidents, he had to be moved. That was a job for a DEP “conservation team” – a biologist and a conservation officer.
Accustomed to checking out situations when “urban bears” appear in New Brunswick or Morristown, for instance, the team drove to the scene in a truck equipped for most eventualities. As a yearling, this particular bear – eventually identified by either his lip tattoo or ear tag – had been relocated a few times last year.
Patrick Carr, a supervising wildlife biologist who manages the conservation teams, had by now taken over from Ragonese on the Q&A.
He said that with breeding season approaching, larger adult males drive out sub-adults – like “Exit 8 bear” – who then must find their own territory. Black bears don’t reach adulthood until age four, he indicated.
Carr mentioned that the state has set up travel and dispersal corridors for bears along waterways, which is why protecting adjacent areas is so important. Bears make the most of even small slivers of habitat, he said, describing the Assunpink area as “a large tract of habitat, with lots of food sources and a blending of forest areas with under-story base.”
In other words, “Exit 8 bear” may have moved up in the world.
The website for the Division of Fish and Wildlife in the Dept. of Environmental Protection is www.FishandWildlife.com. Click on the black bear for information.
Freelancer Pat Summers also blogs at www.AnimalBeat.blogspot.com.