The BEAR Program's primary mission is to protect black bears and their habitat. Our Bear Smart Community outreach program serves to educate residents about bears, reduce unwarranted fears and increase tolerance of our bear neighbors. Our protection and education objectives foster a peaceful coexistence and replace fear with respect and understanding.
In 1992, founding BEAR Program director Lynda Smith fatefully moved to Hewitt, a hamlet in West Milford Township, New Jersey. On the day of the move, even as the moving van was unloading in the front of her new house, a mother bear and her two cubs visited the backyard. “I’d never seen a wild bear,” said Lynda. “It was exhilarating, but it was a little frightening.” In no time, she learned what biologists had stipulated for decades: the bears viewed her garbage as a buffet; they were drawn to her house by trash and other attractants.
As would any mother, Lynda harbored concerns when her 3-year old played in the yard – until it became apparent that the bears were easily frightened away. The bruins were so shy that Lynda failed at photographing one male black bear in particular. “Each time I stepped outside to take a photo, he’d run into the woods or climb a tree. He was more frightened of me than I of him.”
In time, Lynda taught her son to clap his hands and stomp his feet to scare the bears. “It worked every time.” “When my son wanted to play Frisbee with the bears, I explained the importance of respecting bears and watching them from a distance.” Lynda's son is now 21-years old. “He feels that growing up in such close proximity to these wonderful animals has enriched his life, “said Lynda. “Bears were a positive for our family. Education is the key to successful coexistence.”
Shortly after moving to Hewitt, Lynda founded the Bear Education And Resource Group (now the BEAR Program) to help people moving into bear country learn how to peacefully coexist with black bears. The BEAR Program pioneered, developed, and distributed bear-resistant trash cans, which eliminated food sources in neighborhoods. Sure enough, eventually fewer bears visited the neighborhood. When the lures of human trash and attractants were removed, the bears stayed in the woods, and dined on natural foods.
Lynda's passion for bears began in Hewitt, but she learned everything about black bears from world-renowned black bear expert, Dr. Lynn Rogers. Her education was enhanced by observing black bears in their natural habitat.
The BEAR Program, now part of Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) is the only educational program in New Jersey dedicated to protecting black bears and their habitat. Since its inception, the BEAR Program has evolved into a dynamic Bear Smart Community outreach program.
APLNJ’s Bear Smart Community outreach program serves the public via educational tables and public presentations. The BEAR Program has distributed over 100,000 brochures to municipalities, camps,
civic groups, schools and libraries. BEAR Program volunteers are available to the public seven days a week, counseling on Bear Smart methods, assisting with the acquisition of bins, and much more.
The BEAR Program and other organizations have generated over 1 million letters and phone calls to protect black bears from hunting. The program has successfully halted bear hunts in 2000-2002, 2004, and 2006-2009.
Why black bear protection is important
In the 1970s our state’s bear population was virtually wiped out by trophy hunting, thanks to the pro-hunting stance of the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW).
Because black bears are among the slowest reproducing mammals in North America, it took over three decades for the population to recover. And as it did so, more and more people moved into the New Jersey Highlands—fragmenting the very heart of bear country. The need for public awareness was great. And so in 1992, Bear Education And Resource was formed.
Today, DFW continues to spread misinformation about black bears to garner support for killing bears through its category I system, farmer depredation permits, and black bear trophy hunt.
The only effective solution to keeping bears in their natural habitat is to become a Bear Smart Community. Learn more at www.bearsmartnj.org.
We welcome anyone who shares our goals of education and black bear protection. If you would like to join, please click the “Join Us” link at the top of the page, or any “donate” button.
Bear Education And Resource (BEAR) Program
Post Office Box 613
Manalapan, NJ 07726-0613
Assistant Associate Director - Outreach & Advertisement
Associate Director - Social Media
Associate Director - Educational Programs
Associate Director - Outreach & Advertisement
Associate Director - Vigils & Protests
Associate Director - Bear Proofing Coordinator
Associate Director - Art & Media
Associate Director - Special Events, Research & Creative Education
Associate Director - Research & Program Development
Merchandise and Literature
Doris Lin, Esq.
Associate Director - Legal & Government Affairs
Assistant Associate Director - Educational Programs