Bear killed after breaking into Pinecliff Lake home

| 26 Sep 2012 | 06:31

BY LINDA SMITH HANCHARICK with Reporting by Donna Chamberlain
— A female bear was shot dead by a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife officer Wednesday morning, two days after she broke into a Bearfort Road home, trashing the family's play room while they slept.

The mother and her two cubs have been in the Pinecliff Lake area all summer, according to West Milford Messenger photographer/reporter Donna Chamberlain, who lives in the area. Chamberlain said the three bears are not frightened by humans. Word in the neighborhood was that the mother had opened a screen door and entered another home a few weeks earlier, but that event was not reported.
The female bear had been tagged previously.

Waking to a mess

The bear apparently came into the home sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning while the family slept, breaking a basement window to gain access. According to the homeowner, who did not wish to be identified, the room is her children's playroom. It was completely trashed. She called the Division of Fish and Wildlife fearing a return by the bears and concerned that her pre-school age children might be playing in the room next time.
The DEP set a trap outside the house on Tuesday night and on Wednesday around 7 a.m., one of the cubs, which officials say was born in January, 2012, went into the trap. The mother and other cub climbed a nearby tree as West Milford Police and NJ DEP officials were called.

"No one wants to shoot a bear"

Fish and Wildlife officials tranquilized both cubs, one female, which was up the tree with the mother, and the male in the trap. Amy Schweitzer, a technician with the NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife, took DNA and blood samples from both cubs, tattooed their lips and tagged their ears. The female cub, who had been seen limping in the neighborhood, had two broken legs, most likely a result of being hit by a car. Both she and the male cub were taken to the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge, a rehabilitation center in Hunterdon County.
According to officials, after the cubs are evaluated and found fit to return to the wild, they will be released back into the area.
The DEP intended to tranquilize the adult bear as well, according to Kelcey Burguess, principal biologist and black bear specialist with the Division of Fish and Wildlife. But when they found out she had entered two homes in the past few weeks, they decided the behavior was dangerous to humans.
"No one wants to shoot a bear," said Burguess, who added that her behavior was indicative of a bear who had been fed by humans.
"A bear that acts this way and comes into a home is an indication it's been fed somewhere."

Emotional day

The day was just getting started when the incident happened. Children had just been picked up at the bus stops for the high school and middle school bus run. Buses for the elementary school children were rerouted away from the scene. The adults who were left helped hold the net for the bears after they were shot in the tree. Many cried when the female was shot dead. The homeowner whose property was damaged by the bear, said she had hoped all three would be tranquilized and relocated.

What you should do

Burguess said residents should feel free to call the Division of Fish and Wildlife for any reason regarding bears and other animals, but especially if they are in a home. For any information on black bears or any other wildlife in the area, call 877-927-6337.