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Black bears: Aggressive behavior may be passed down from adult to cub

With aggressive black bear sightings becoming more common, at least one wildlife expert believes there a possibility that this behavior can be passed down from adult bears to their cubs.

Black Bear Sighting in South Jersey
Michele Pilenza/NJ1015

Ramapo Valley Reservation in Mahwah was closed Wednesday by state officials and Thursday, Ramapo State Forest remained shut down for the second week. The Dept. of Environmental Protection was forced to kill four aggressive black bears that showed little to no fear of humans. Are there concerns that the aggressive and fearless behavior can be inherited?

“Yes. Oh absolutely. We know from other experiences that we have. That if we have a sow with cubs and she’s breaking into a house or she’s not afraid of people or approaching people, it’s a learned behavior and the cubs do take it on,” said Dave Chanda, State Division of Fish and Wildlife director.

That passed down behavior is a real concern, Chanda said, and that’s why it is part of the division’s education campaigns. He said illegally feeding black bears often leads to the aggressive and fearless attitudes and while people may feel they’re doing a good thing it’s a bad thing for the bears if they have to be put down.

Four 'aggressive' bears killed

“Those bears that are deemed a threat to people or the public, they’re euthanized. We kill them right away. The biologists have to make a decision in the field with cubs,” Chanda said. “Was it a situation where they learned that behavior? If so, unfortunately you may have to destroy them or put them in a rehab center.”

Drastic measures have to be taken when a black bear demonstrates no fear of humans and then other steps need to be taken to make sure the cubs don’t have that same lack of fear.

“Typically we just put the one bear down and hope that we don’t have an issue with those cubs later on, but we do tag them. We monitor to make sure that we don’t have an issue that was passed down from one generation to the next,” Chanda said.

Deminski & Doyle: NJ, please help us learn more about this bipedal bear

Advice on what to do if you encounter a fearless and aggressive bear can be found at Black bears have been sighted in all 21 New Jersey counties. Chanda also encouraged anyone who sees one to call 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337).

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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