Bear Attacks N.J. Man in His Garage, Gets Euthanized

by Halle Ames

A black bear attacked an 82-year-old man from Jersey, Ronald Jelinek, earlier this week in his garage. The state Division of Fish and Wildlife has since trapped and euthanized the animal.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said this black bear has been breaking into homes all week and finally attacked Jelinek on July 24. Jelinek, who lives in West Milford, suffered more than 30 stitches from the attack. This incident marks the only attack reported in the state in 2020 due to the rarity of the situation.

Until 2014, New Jersey has not seen any fatal bear attacks on people. Darsh Patel, a 22-year-old hiker, was the first death in the state. He was hiking with friends in West Milford when the attack happened.

Bear sightings Are Going Up

Since the start of 2020, there have been over 200 bear sightings in New Jersey. That is already a 90 percent increase since 2019 when there were only 105.

There have been 23 Categories 1 bear incidents in the state thus far, compared to 22 cases in 2019. A Category 1 incident deems it state policy to euthanize the animals.

Home entries by bears have also more than doubled in the past year, bringing this year’s total number to nine. This number does not include Jelinek’s attack.

According to The Department of Environmental Protection, numbers may be increasing due to more people indoors because of the coronavirus.

The increase in sighting has made people call into question the duration of the annual bear hunt. On the other hand, Governor Phil Murphy promised in his campaign to end the hunt, backed by animal rights and environmentalist groups. Furthermore, the Governor may not take action alone. He first must get approval from the New Jersey Fish and Game Council. He has, however, banned bear hunting on state lands since 2018.

New Jersey’s annual bear hunt will begin October 12.

What can you do?

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife recommends keeping trash, food, and birdseed out of reach. This included using bear-resistant trash containers, not feeding birds, cleaning out grills, and picking up nuts and fruit that fall into your yard from trees.

If you do come in contact with a bear, be loud. Remind calm and allow the animal to have an exit route.

All sighting or issues should be reported to the Department of Environmental Protection’s 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337)