Teachers at Hopatcong Middle School say they have been seeing an increase in bears on school property, and want to make the kids know how to react when they see them.
That's why eighth-grade teacher Maureen Gallone gave a presentation on bear safety to the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders on Wednesday to make sure they're aware of how to avoid contact with the mom and cub bears they have been seeing hanging out around the dumpsters.
"Her presentation was very informative, and gave a lot of insight," language arts teacher Donald Dippel said. "I think it was a great way to 'wow' the kids to help them understand it a little better and what to do in a situation if they ever get put in a predicament."
One of the pointers Gallone told the kids is that the bears may huff, snap their jaws and slap the ground if they think they're too close. If this happens, it is important to back away slowly, and not run.
It is also possible to scare the bears by making loud noises. Banging pots and pans together and using fog horns are some examples.
Gallone also said that it is important to never feed a bear. She said they will eat garbage or any food left outside, and will return to places where they found easily accessible food.
Gallone pointed out that the NJ DEP suggests that if kids bring their lunch to school to not put it in their backpacks, and instead carry it in their hands so they can drop it if a bear approaches them.
If a bear cub is spotted in a tree, Gallone said it is important to not stop and look up at them because the momma bear is always nearby watching.
Gallone said that after the presentation, she hopes the students walked away with "a better awareness of what they do if they run into a bear; if they're out in their neighborhood or walking to and from school, hopefully I decreased some fears for them," she said.
Dippel said that in the past two weeks he has seen the bears several times a day, every day, which is more than he can ever remember in his seven years at the school. The bears, which are usually a mom and several cubs in the dumpster, were even noticebale during the presentation.
He said that from the library's window where the presentation was, everyone could see the bears.
Hopatcong Police Lt. Thomas Kmetz said the increase in bears this time of year is common because it's mating season and they're preparing for the winter.
He said that whenever the department gets a call about a bear, they'll go to the location. The bears are categorized in either 1, 2, or 3 with 1 being the most dangerous.
If the bear is a 1, they'll kill them, if it is a 2, they'll shoot him with a rubber bullet, and if it is a 3, they won't do anything to them, but they'll usually get scared by the cops and walk away.
Kmetz said the bears at the school have been category 3.