TRENTON-Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell is urging residents of Northern and Central New Jersey to bear-proof the areas around their residences to prevent bear intrusions. Further, Campbell urges residents statewide to keep an eye out for bear sightings. As the weather continues to get warmer, black bears become more active searching for food and mates. "Knowing how to prevent bears from coming close to your home is the first step toward safety," said DEP Fish and Wildlife Director Martin J. McHugh. "One of the best ways to discourage nuisance bears is by storing garbage properly, by keeping pets and livestock in enclosed areas, and by keeping all food products - like bird seed - away from wildlife. Taking preventive steps now can protect you and your family during the spring and summer months to come." Never feed a black bear! It's dangerous and against the law. Violators could face a penalty of up to a $1,000 for each offense. Remember that reducing problems with bears is a community effort. Form a community group within your neighborhood to keep all residents safe. Invest in bear-proof garbage containers. Store all garbage in airtight containers with tight fitting lids in a secure area such as a basement, the inside wall of a garage, or a shed. Wash garbage containers frequently - at least once a week - with a disinfectant to eliminate odors. Draping bleach-soaked cloth over containers will also help to eliminate odors. Put garbage out on collection day, not the evening before. Do not place meat or sweet food scraps in compost piles. Feed birds only between December 1 and April 1, when bears are in dens and less likely to visit feeders. Feed outdoor pets during daylight hours only. Immediately remove all food scraps and bowls after feeding. Clean outdoor grills thoroughly after each use. Grease and food residue can attract bears. Report bear damage or nuisance behavior to the local police department.