So we were driving to my cousin's house for a BBQ the other day and what do we see as we drive up to his house?!?  A BEAR!  Bears scare the pants off me but at the same time I marvel at them. They're incredible forces of nature.  I have an agreement with all bears...they sleep in the woods and I don't. Now that arrangement has worked just fine for us so far.  However, our little contract did not cover an unexpected encounter as I visit my cousin.

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Experts say "if it's black attack and if it's brown get down" and there are two reasons why that advice (in my case), is hysterical.  First, I'm not attacking anything. Had this encounter been at closer range I would be absolutely frozen with fear and probably wouldn't be able to talk for a month.  Second, can you picture me trying to determine in the heat of the moment if the bear is technically black or brown? With my luck I'd get the blackish-brown one or the the black bear that decided to get brown highlights, I would have no idea what to do and it would most likely claw the puzzled look off my face before I figured it out.

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There have been about 50 bear sightings reported in New Jersey so far this year (which is down from last year) but since we (and by we I mean you) are camping, hiking and outside more in the warm months, an encounter is possible. Here's what the experts say to do if you find yourself in that situation:

The N.J. DEP website says:

Remain calm if you encounter a bear. Do not run from it. (easier said than done).
Make the bear aware of your presence by speaking in an assertive voice, singing, clapping your hands, or making other noises. (Will a Bruno Mars tune be acceptable here?)
If a bear enters your home, provide it with an escape route by propping all doors open. (That seems rude, should I at least offer a cold glass of iced tea?)
Avoid direct eye contact,  which may be perceived by a bear as a challenge. Never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away. (done and done).
Make yourself look as big as possible by waving your arms. If you are with someone else, stand close together with your arms raised above your head.
The bear may utter a series of huffs, make popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swat the ground. These are warning signs that you are too close. (agreed, I'm too close).
If a bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer, it may be trying to get a better view or detect scents in the air. It is usually not a threatening behavior. (Great, get bigger. That won't make me pass out at all).
Black bears will sometimes “bluff charge” when cornered, threatened or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, then slowly back away and do not run. (And please take the fruit basket on my table as a parting gift).
If the bear does not leave, move to a secure area.  (SOLD).

Growing up in Jersey I was always taught not to be a rat but in this case I'm happy to sing like a bird.  Officials say you should report black bear damage or nuisance behavior to the DEP’s 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337).

The pros say if you are going to be in a rural area that you should have a “Bear Plan” in place for children, and adults complete with an escape route and planned use of whistles and air horns.  Does Costco carry those in bulk?

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