Black Bear Is Being Left Alone to Roam Burlco Wilds

A black bear was sighted taking a dip in Strawbridge Lake in Moorestown over the Memorial Day weekend. (Photo published by the Burlington County Times)

There have been at least a half-dozen sightings of a black bear in Burlington County in the past week, but wildlife authorities say they will just let him be.  That is, as long as he doesn't become aggressive.  So far, he has not shown any threatening behavior and people have said they enjoy seeing him roaming about their neighborhoods.

What would be the point of tranquilizing him and relocating him to a woods or an animal preservation area?  "There's no fences around these places and the bear can start moving again," said Larry Hajna, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. (Check out the interactive map here)

"Generally… they’re young males looking for new territory to mate with females," he said.

Hajna said the DEP is not tracking the bear, but the agency is keeping on top of the situation by getting reports from police on where the bear has been seen and how it is behaving.  Normally, bears don't threaten humans, unless people start feeding them, he warned.

Then, the bear will associate people with food and could become demanding and troublesome, he said.

It's not known how many bears live in South Jersey but there are at least 3,000 in the northwest corner of the state. 

It also is not known if the bear sightings are of one bear or more, Hajna said.

But if it is the same one, he's been busy.  He was first spotted in Florence Township on May 21, then traveled into Westampton and into Mount Laurel.  Over the weekend he was seen in two places near the busy Church Road in Mount Laurel and then he thrilled residents by taking a dip in Strawbridge Lake in Moorestown.

Moorestown Lt. Lee Lieber said the bear was last seen Wednesday morning along the banks of the North Branch of the Pennsauken Creek off Cottage and Browning Avenues along the town's boundary with Maple Shade. 

Hajna says the bears often follow the wooded waterways when venturing into new territory.  The creek starts with Strawbridge Lake and eventually spills into the Delaware River.