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
Dee brought social media to our organization and has been instrumental in helping activists understand the different social media outlets. Originally, Dee was responsible for posting everything, but her educational efforts have led to more of us being active in this process.
Dee is also actively involved with the Bear Program and helped us save the Edgewater geese. Her geese photos are phenomenal. Dee is also responsible for creating memes for our social media posts.
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
Kim brings her passion for black bear education and creative talents to our BEAR Program by organizing special events designed to bring in funds for projects, billboard placement, etc. She along with Mark have managed & coordinated the annual BEAR Rummage Sale.
Kim’s research has been instrumental in helping bears, deer, geese, coyotes and wild turkeys. Kim uses social media to educate our visitors on black bear behavior, volunteers at outreach events, and loves dressing up as the bear mascot. She is actively involved with our Bear Program, Saddle River Deer campaign, and Edgewater geese. Kim is also a Legislative District Leader for LOHV-NJ. Kim, along with Mark handle the Bear Hotline.
Kim is a gifted crafter whose talents will help the group raise precious funds for all of our programs. She is also an avid wildlife photographer who does field work and uses her photographs to help educate people. As a nature lover and advocate for protecting open space, she is a board member of the Demarest Nature Center.
Associate Director - Research & Program Development
Mark is honored to be actively involved with the incredibly dedicated and determined BEAR Program and LOHV-NJ teams as well as the Saddle River Deer and Edgewater geese campaigns. Mark strongly believes that there are ways to peacefully coexist with wildlife and education of the public and elected officials is key. These campaigns can be springboards to many other non lethal bear, deer and goose management plans (where needed).
Mark’s traffic study on why accidents happen in Saddle River showed the Borough that during the study timeframe, deer-car collisions were 20% of the problem. Mark’s recommendations, (signage, lighting, and lower speed limits) if implemented can help to reduce traffic accidents. Mark’s research has led to the Borough to contact Bergen County for reduced speed limits. Mark was also involved in the planning of town meetings in bear country to reduce the number of towns participating in the bear hunt. Mark, along with Kim handle the Bear Hotline as well as manage & coordinate special fundraising events including the Rummage Sale.
In his free time, Mark loves spending time viewing and photographing wildlife & nature to assist with protection efforts. He and Kim are also board members of the Demarest Nature Center.
Merchandise and Literature
Doris Lin, Esq.
Associate Director - Legal & Government Affairs
Assistant Associate Director - Educational Programs