Last week, Manchester...this week, Middletown is where a bear's been sighted roaming neighborhoods.

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Township spokesperson Cindy Herrschaft reported that the sighting occurred Thursday night in the vicinity of Nut Swamp Road. Middletown police patrols have been enhanced in the area, and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife has been notified.

Black bear attacks are said to be rare. The beasts are on the prowl for food, which for them is practically anything - seeds from bird feeders, barbecue leftover, fish from rivers and streams, berries growing wild in yards and on roadsides.

Families in areas known for black bear traffic should develop a "bear plan" for children, with an escape route, and guidance for using whistles and air horns.

State authorities say that bears are essentially timid and don't really want to tangle with humans, but can easliy feel threatened and turn defensive.

If you spot one, don't approach it. Call 911. Other than that, remain calm, don't run. Back away slowly. Avoid direct eye contact.

Create a racket, speak commandingly, even sing and clap your hands. Wave your arms, give yourself the largest possible appearance that you can. If you are with someone else, stand togehter with arms raised. If you've got pots and pans, bang them together. If you've got an air horn, blast it. Be sure that the bear has a way to escape.

Keep garbage cans tightly sealed, leave no pet food on porches or in yards, and keep an eye on children and pets when they're outdoors. If a bear manages to enter your house, open all the doors.

A bear's repeated "huff" noises, jaw-popping sounds or pawing the ground indicate that you're too close. Back away slowly. Don't run. Avoid direct eye contact.

Bears attempting to take food, that appear cornered or threatened, are known to "bluff charge." Stand your ground, avoid eye contact, and slowly back away. If the bear doesn't leave, head for a secure area.

A bear on hind legs typically is either trying to see a greater distance or follow odors in the air. It is not considered a threatening pose.

Report black bear sightings or damage, any time of the day or night, to the Department of Environmental Protection's toll-free hotline, 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337).

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