Bears Finding Food (cicadas) And Shelter (backyards) In Mills Reservation

bear in mills
Backyard bear. Photo credit: Molly Zaidi

Molly Zaidi of Montclair wants her backyard back…and her daily run, too. She sent this message to Baristanet today:

Two bears are still in Mills Reservation. One is sleeping in our back yard. It seems worth making people aware of the situation. I can’t warn everyone who walks past my porch and into the reservation. I gave up running there yesterday after my third encounter. They are clearly not aggressive bears (so far–wonder what happens when the cicada candy goes back underground), but still…People should be able to make an informed choice about going into the reservation.

Zaidi says last week she called the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, and was told they couldn’t do anything “unless the bear is in my house or up a tree.” When she called later–after  sighting a different bear–to ask if it was safe to run in the reservation, she was told to be sure to “stay on the path.” When one of the bears ambled into her backyard, she called the Montclair police. “The officer told me he lives in an area where he sees bears everyday. They don’t seem to think it’s a big deal,” says Zaidi. “I wish they’d at least post a warning sign.”

Bear in another backyard, Mills Reservation
Photo credit: Lily Seraydarian

Zaidi has decided to curtail her runs for now, and is keeping her family out of the backyard. “I’m concerned because the first bear that saw me in my backyard last week just ran away. But yesterday, when I was with a group of walkers, a bear got on its haunches and stared at us. It was a different kind of look. Like he was trying to make himself appear bigger, and telling us this was his territory.”

Is it possible that the cicadas are attracting the bears to Mills? Zaidi, who lives on the eastern side of the reservation in what she calls a “cicada hotspot,” thinks so. “I’ve seen them picking them off the trees, eating them like candy,” she says. Zaidi is worried about what will happen in a few weeks when Magicicada Brood II is gone. “I’m hoping the bears will eat some of the groundhogs–we have so many– and then leave.”

Bear in Mills Reservation. Photo credit: Edward Martin

In the meantime, Zaidi and her family are learning more about how to co-exist with the bears. “Last night we arrived home after dark, and got out of the car clapping and singing to ward off the bears,” she says. “I don’t want to live like this the rest of the summer.”



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  1. Post a warning sign? Why? These bears are not the ferocious kinds & people aren’t in danger so why signs? (yes! let’s spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need!)

  2. I live right in this area, too, and had a close brush with at least one bear in Mills last week. I do think it’s wise to respect the bears, to not see them as “cute” or cuddly. But i think it’s very cool to learn to live in nature with beings whose ancestors were here long before ours were. wildlife can be threatening and scary (not that these bears really are), but it is also a reminder of something larger than ourselves. is it such a bad thing if we adjust our lives a little bit for nature rather than, as ALWAYS, make nature bow to us??????

  3. Any wild animal that is bigger then us and hungry, scared, out of its element or just having a bad bad can be considered a ferocious kind. Each time they see a person they are going to get bolder and while we aren’t a food source we aren’t able to go one on one with the bear either.

  4. I saw a small bear near the midpoint of the trail to the top on Sunday afternoon at Mills. There were frequent sitings reported of two bears. The one I saw exhibited no fear of humans and approached very close, so close I decided to (carefully) make a quick discrete exit. I had been standing still in an attempt to take pictures.

  5. ihateplaydates-excellent point…if only a fleeting experience.

    people seem to forget Mills is a reservation…not a park. h/e, it is an anomaly in a soon to be urban landscape…no place for bears and kids to mix.

  6. Didn’t someone in the Montclair Board of Education tell us there was a “citing” of a bear near Watchung Plaza last week? We should all check our grammar and spelling before posting.

  7. Just to be clear, since I’m Molly Zaidi, 1) I don’t think nature should bow to us. I wrote in because I thought people should know there are bears in Mills before they decide to go up there. I do not think (and did not say) that he has less right to be here than I. We have adjusted our lives with good humor (the bit about singing was supposed to be funny), so please don’t make assumptions. 2) The bears are very well behaved, but we and they are not used to one another, and if you decide to go into the reservation, you should know your bear protocol first. 3) By warning sign, I was not suggesting mass hysteria, but something temporary posted at the entrances so that the many people who are used to walking up there and not seeing bears won’t jump out of their skins when they see one. And so that parents and dog walkers know not to let their charges run ahead or off the path.

  8. I think it is outrageous that the authorities are even permitting people into Mills reservation while these bears are at large. This is not Montana, but an area of Upper Montclair / Little Falls, where adults, children, and pets often traverse.

    These bears are not going away. The sensible thing to do would be to tranquilize, capture, and relocate them to an appropriate location.

  9. Bears at large in a reservation! Crazy!
    Stupid Davella Mills Foundation people. Wouldn’t you know they put deed restrictions on the 100+ acreas of land they donated….no free speech, no right to assembly, no right to bear arms, no more mid-century modern encampments creeping up the ridge line, no boathouse restaurants, no zoos, no trolleys. It was to be left in a natural state.

  10. I love the bear stories! This is the most exciting thing to happen around here since…

  11. I appreciate Molly Zaidi getting the word out about the Bears. From reading the post though, it gives the impression, falsely I believe, that she “wants something done about them.”

    This is VERY different from those who move near a school, then complain that there are kids all around doing what kids do. Or better yet, those who live near a school ball field and complain that people have the audacity to show up to sporting events.

    If you choose to live near a reservation, a school or, like the West end of my Estate, a busy road– don’t complain.

    But here, like Molly Zaidi did, if you know there is a danger that may help someone, I appreciate it.

    Thanks Molly!!

  12. Not sure if your last comment was mean to be facetious Frank, but if I understand you correctly, this is not so much an issue about bears roaming Mills Reservation as it is about bears roaming Mills Reservation and sleeping in someone’s adjacent back yard.

    Did someone here suggest a restaurant, zoo, or trolley . . . or just a sign to warn people?

  13. “This is not Montana”. You don’t have to go to Montana to live among bears. My friends & Family in Sussex County, NJ coexist with bears since… forever

  14. ” bear got on its haunches and stared at us. It was a different kind of look. Like he was trying to make himself appear bigger, and telling us this was his territory.”

    This behavior, according to the Bear Aware info at several of the western national parks, results from bears having not such great vision. They stand up on their hind legs so as to try to get a better view of you.

    For the record, I like having black bears in our midst.

  15. I can’t help wondering how the bear sitings have affected the people who insist it’s their right let their dogs run off-leash.

  16. Oh, and let’s be honest, if you’ve been following MontclairBear1 on twitter, you’d know he means no harm. He’s just out looking for some fun in town.

    I thought we liked our diversity?

  17. Interesting about the poor vision. Thank you, yes, that could have been it. And, yes, the article does give the impression that I want them gone. I’m not sure what part of my conversation with Dana resulted in that impression, but I probably did say something to the effect that I would be relieved if they weren’t here. Not running in Mills (and maybe I’ll go back to it when I get to understand the situation better) and knowing they are sleeping 30 feet from the house (fresh bear scat in the mornings) is a constraint I’d just as soon live without. But I did not mean to imply that anyone should bring the helicopters in to round them up to save us from what is, of course, naturally out there. We did indeed know that we might run into the occasional bear if we moved here. By the end of the summer I suppose many of us will be bear-smarter than we are now.

  18. “My friends & Family in Sussex County, NJ coexist with bears since… forever.”

    The populatuon density in Sussex County is 277 people per square mile, in Essex County that number is 22.

    See the difference?

  19. unmitigated gall, I would say the bears are most exciting thing since the Russian spies….

    A bear was spotted in Verona yesterday heading north on Pompton Avenue toward King’s…Wait ’til he gets a load of those prices….

  20. Silverleaf, there is no difference when the bear is in your backyard. It doesn’t matter if one person is staring at a bear from their kitchen window or 6 people are

  21. And the population density doesn’t make sense since bears aren’t roaming the streets of Newark. Sussex county has over 5 times the square miles then that of Essex County, but 60% of the population live in Urban areas. The wikipedia site is dividing the number of people with the total land.

  22. Silverleaf,
    I think that may have been Davella Mills’ point in making her gift of the land.

    True. Cute kids also grow up.

  23. Jimmytown, your response is disingenuous. In this case, of course density makes a difference. Wild animals living in high density areas in extremely close proximity to adults, children, and pets should be relocated to a region where they can live without the threat of harm to either.

    If you were Molly Zaida, wouid permit your children to play in the backyard?

  24. point taken. In Sparta for instance, regardless of the density, bear sightings in backyards and near children/pets are a daily occurrence. They don’t tranquilize them and move them a few miles out of town. They make themselves aware of the bears, keep food and garbage locked up and coexist. This isn’t a man eating monster, it’s a bear. I’m not saying you can pet them, but if you respect them and understand that bears exist, this wouldn’t be an article

  25. Whose talkig about petting? It is a predatory animal that does not belong on Highland Avenue.

    After all, If I’m paying outrageous taxes, why should a bear get away with paying none at all?

  26. Honestly, I wish people got this worked up over all the shootings and other crimes being committed around here. Much better chance of getting caught up in that, then getting mauled by a bear. Not saying there’s no need to be careful, but worse things are being caused by the two-legged species in Montclair and its surrounding towns.

  27. Dogs off leash are way more common, problematic, and potentially deadly than a black bear. We shouldn’t let the novelty of the bear distract from the comparatively low danger they pose to anybody.

    Molly – That list you linked to shows 16 fatal black bear attacks in the United States from 2000 to the present.

    Compare that to the 245 fatal dog attacks from 2005 to the present. (

    Even if you take into account the disparity between the number of dogs in the US versus the number of black bears, the fact remains that dog attacks are more common and result in more deaths.

    As a regular hiker in Mills Reservation and the Bonsal Nature Preserve, I’m more troubled and scared about the fact that people allow their large, often unruly, dogs off leash, forcing parents to try and figure out whether the 100 pound animal running towards their 2 year old is looking to lick her or devour her. Given the statistics, that should be all of our concerns.

  28. Ooh, be careful vanb – you don’t want to poke the Baristanet dog police by saying something negative about man’s best friend. You know it’s you that’s intolerant, right? 😉

  29. I like my chances with the dogs & bears in the reservation over the crosswalks in Montclair.

  30. I’m not here to represent the dog police, but rather the statistics police. There are over 100X more dogs in the United States than black bears so I’m quite sure that statement is incorrect once you account for the fact that there are more dogs. Moreover, I think you want to look at the incidence level with human-dog or human-bear interactions as the denominator, in which dog interactions probably outnumber bear interactions by multiples somewhere in the thousands if not tens of thousands. But you can go ahead and try to pet the bear at the Reservation and hope it merely licks your face.

  31. Everyone who is so concerned about these bears should really do some research on them. All in all they really aren’t that bad, they are a beautiful part of nature. Think of the people in places like Alaska who live life everyday with caution of bears but never fear. Just know what to do in a serious situation, learn about them.

  32. No not really jimmytown most people are aware like everyone here is…. Well now. But I’m not against the sign. Montclair isn’t really like Alaska at all, and people don’t expect to see bears here so they should be warned if they have no knowledge they are there. Or someone could make flyers *caution bears* that way no one has to actually complain about the town spending money. All ideas but I think these bears are awesome!

  33. Just leave them alone. They are harmless and just looking for a meal. It ain’t like a homeless person scoping your neighborhood looking for a easy spot to loot and catch a nap, it’s just a hungry animal. Let them eat those vile Cicada’s all up, who cares. In West Milford only about 20 miles away, there are Timber rattle snakes as thick as a Starbucks cup and over 4 feet long, 3 foot long water moccassins, black snakes over 5 feet long and Black bears twice the size of the ones in Montclair, (700 pounder and over 6 feet tall standing up, police officer quoted the one in my yard, that was pushing my grill around). Just lock your car doors, (because they willl open them, a we have them doing it on video), buy a bear proof garbage can and don’t feed them. They will leave when food supply isn’t enough.

  34. Live680, I was kidding. I don’t think we need signs. No more than we need labels on shampoo bottles saying “do not drink, for external use only.” I subscribe to Louis C.K.’s idea of letting lions run free and nature take its course… There are people in Baristaville that could be eaten by a Bear and my eyes would stay dry

  35. Perhaps it is the bears that need signs, if they could read, if they leave the woods and head towards degraded suburbia. Examples:
    “Warning, eating Happy Meals from this dumpster may be hazardous to your health”
    “Warning, walking on asphalt paving on a hot day may be seriously unpleasant”
    and so on.

  36. I grew up in Montclair and loved the diversity of the town but as I read some of these stories regarding the wildlife “taking over the town” I am so glad I moved. If you move to an area that has woods, nature trails, and parks all around be ready for the wildlife to make themselves known.
    I have to chuckle when I read about the town being put into lock down at the site of a bear. Where I live now a bear sighting is almost as frequent as a raccoon sighting in Montclair. As long as you are smart and don’t try befriending the bear you should be ok. As long as you don’t try to walk up to it for a photo shoot you should be ok. Just be smart people. Make sure you have firecrackers, pots to bang, or just a really loud voice, you should be ok. The bears have been there long before you and because you are building and moving into there territory you will be seeing more of them. If you don’t like the bears, don’t complain about them….move.

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