By KRISTEN GARAFANO
Two separate bear sightings within a few days of each other are causing students to question just how safe they are on campus.
Officials reported a bear sighting on Sept. 29, which was spotted near North Field at 2:15 a.m. Following that, on Oct. 2, a bear and cubs were seen around 1 a.m. near Woods Road. Public Safety sent out emails warning students and faculty of the existence of the bears, including details about what to do if a person came across them.
Despite the warnings, some students worry about the growing bear population near campus.
“I wasn’t surprised when I got the first email,” said junior Megan Muller. “When I got the second one a few days later though, I was kind of shocked, especially because it said there were cubs too.”
The population of black bears in New Jersey has been increasing since the 1980s, according to the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife. Bears have been seen in all 21 of New Jersey’s counties.
A bear activity report sent out by the New Jersey division at the end of September lists a total of 1,427 sightings and damage and nuisance encounters between Jan. 1 and Sept. 20 of this year.
Some students find themselves worried by this increase in bear sightings. “I haven’t seen one around here yet,” said junior Caitlin Connolly. “But I feel like I’m bound to at some point, and if that time ever comes, I have no idea what I’ll do.”
“It’s scary,” said Muller. “There’s already so many other animals like raccoons and deer on campus. I definitely wouldn’t want to cross paths with a bear.”
If You See a Bear, Follow These Tips
In their emails, Public Safety instructs individuals to not move towards a bear and use extreme caution if one is spotted.
They also advise everyone to make noise, either by sounding a car horn or clapping hands in order to make the bear aware of a human presence. It’s also important to make sure the bear has an escape route, to stand far at a distance of at least 100 feet, and slowly back away from the animal.
If a student on campus comes across a bear somewhere on campus and feels they are in danger, they should contact Public Safety. If it is causing problems, then typically they will call the local animal control to take care of it.
Connolly said if she were ever to see a bear on campus, she wouldn’t even know how to react. “I’d probably freeze and panic and run into the closest building after I composed myself,” she said.
“I feel safe at Ramapo for the most part,” Muller said, adding that the blue boxes around campus add to that feeling. The blue boxes are emergency phones that exist in multiple locations and connect directly to Public Safety. “But still, if I ever saw a bear, I would definitely freak out.”