HOPATCONG - Bears in North Jersey are waking from their winter naps, and they are hungry and making appearances in residential areas.
When Linda Reinschmidt went to put out her garbage Tuesday morning, she knew she'd had a black bear pay her a visit. "The garbage was strewn around and I said, 'we've had company'," she says, "We'll have to buy a new door. He broke the 2x4. He wanted the food."
Year-round bear sightings are common in Hopatcong. The visit to Reinschmidt's home was the first sighting of the season, according to police. Officials say it's a reminder that bears will become a more common sight all over North Jersey as the weather warms up.
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Bernice Bryant, of Hopatcong, has a regular guest at her house. "He comes and drags my trash can, digs into it, and pulls it," she says.
Hopatcong police are reminding people to secure their garbage and store it in a place where hungry bears can't get to it.
Reinschmidt will be securing her garbage with a new back door on her garage with at least two locks.
Police also urge residents to keep bird feeders high enough so bears can't reach them.
New Jersey has about 3,000 black bears, mostly in Sussex, Passaic, Warren, and Morris counties.