In Central Jersey, black bears often roam the higher elevations west of Route 287 and north of Route 78, but this spring they have been making their way into busier communities, according to resident and police accounts in a report by

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In the past week alone, bears have been spotted in towns such as Readington, South Bound Brook, Watchung, Whitehouse Station, and at the border of Green Brook and Plainfield, according to the report. That follows sightings in late April at the Bound Brook-Bridgewater town line and in South Brunswick, the report said.

But the report cited Readington police telling residents in a community message not to worry — that such activity is "normal behavior this time of year."

The DEP advises that bears who do not appear to be causing specific trouble should be left alone by residents, and the animals will eventually leave the area and move on.

"The most common bear problem New Jersey's residents experience is black bears getting into their garbage," the DEP writes. "Bears are attracted to neighborhoods by garbage odors, so properly securing your garbage is one of the best ways to prevent bears from becoming a nuisance in your community."

Intentional feeding of bears can result in fines up to $1,000.

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Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email