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Back to Bear Stuff TopBear Goes Hunting in Bergen Backyard

Saturday, May 19, 2001


Staff Writer: North Jersey Media Group

RIVER VALE, NJ -- Dorothy Zahn-Sargenti walked out her kitchen door  to do some gardening Friday morning. But she saw something that  caused her first to retreat, then shut the door, and finally look for  her pet Chihuahuas.

Lumbering around her back yard was a black bear -- 200 pounds  worth of black bear, she estimated.

"I've sure never seen anything like that before," said Zahn- Sargenti, 50, who lives on Sylvan Road. "I was worried he might think one of  my dogs would make a tasty snack."

To her relief, Carlos, Chester, and Ricky were all safely inside.

The encounter was unusual for River Vale, but a state wildlife official said  people throughout northern New Jersey need to "become more bear aware,"  because the ursine population is on the rise.

New Jersey is home to about 1,100 bears, according to the state  Division of Fish and Wildlife, up from fewer than 100 two  decades ago. Most of the bears are in Sussex, Warren, Passaic and 
Morris counties, but sightings in Bergen County are becoming  more frequent, said Al Ivany, a fish and wildlife spokesman.

"It's been a very active season so far," Ivany said. "People are  going to be seeing a lot more of them."

Zahn-Sargenti spotted the bear about 9:30 a.m. After wandering  around her yard for about three minutes, the bear then departed by  climbing her six-foot high fence.

She called police, and about an hour later an officer saw the bear  near the River Vale Country Club, said Police Chief William  Habermann. The bear quickly returned to the woods, and hasn't  been seen since, Habermann said.

"I can't recall River Vale ever having a bear sighting before," said  Habermann, a 25-year veteran of the department.

Police notified the state as well as local schools, Habermann said, but did not  pursue the bear.

Ivany recommended that people in the area keep garbage, bird food, and pet  food inside, to ensure the bear is not lured into other back yards.

Zahn-Sargenti said she feels sorry for the animal, but hopes it does not return.

"These poor animals have no place to go anymore," she said. "But while I'm an  animal lover, I certainly wouldn't want to make a pet out of him."

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