Samantha (1981–2012), a beloved New Jersey black bear will always be remembered. Her bright eyes and her gentle ways will be missed.
In 1981, a black bear, later named Samantha, was born in Wawayanda State Park. The little bear was seen walking with her mother, climbing trees, and feeding on acorns. A homeowner whose house borders Wawayanda noticed the little bear sleeping in a tree in her front yard. Innocently, the family began putting out apples for the bear. When, from time to time, the bear came back for the apples, the family named her Samantha. This was the beginning of a special relationship and bond the Kehoe family shared with Samantha.
Right from the start, Samantha was teaching her human family about black bears. The Kehoe's learned first hand about the black bear's timid and gentle nature. They also witnessed bluff charges if they got too close. Samantha visited only a few times each year, preferring to spend most of her time deep in the woods, eating natural food. During these visits, Susan Kehoe started a photographic biography of Samantha's life. From 1995 to 2000, Samantha was our educational mascot. Her face donned the covers of newsletters, lawn signs and ads. In 2000, when the first official hunt was proposed by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, we stopped using Samantha's image — in order to protect her.
Samantha lived her entire life as nature intended, free from the violence of hunting. She lived in the deep woods of Wawayanda State Park, among the glacial rocks and steep ridges. She was an amazing ambassador for bears. She was timid and gentle. She held onto her territory and was a good mother. Samantha was loved by the many humans who had the opportunity and delight to know her in her natural habitat.
She passed away in February of 2012 at 31 years old. In the wild, the lifespan of a black bear is from 25 to 30 years old. Today, the trophy hunt makes it unlikely for most of New Jersey's black bears to reach old age.
Our Bear Smart Community outreach program educates New Jersey residents about bears and fosters a peaceful coexistence and replaces fear with respect and understanding. It is our hope that all bears live out their natural life span as Samantha did, in harmony with people.
To learn more about becoming Bear Smart, please visit Bear Smart NJ.
On June 29, B.E.A.R. held the unveiling and dedication ceremony of a life-size statue in honor of Samantha, a locally beloved black bear who lived her entire life in Wawayanda State Park, in the heart of Vernon Township.
Samantha was beautifully sculpted by lifelong resident and local artist, Gary Adamkovich. The statue will be on permanent display in front of the Vernon Township Municipal Building. At the base of the statue, sculpted tiles represent local indigenous animal and plant species.
During the ceremony, the donors who made this gift possible were recognized as well as the sculptor, Gary Adamkovich, the Department of Public Works for moving her, and the Vernon Town Council for their support and approval.
Please enjoy the pictures of this wonderful event by visiting Samantha's Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/SamanthaVernon