Western New Jersey

Pet goat mauled by bear; concerns over more bear encounters

Officials expect bears to be more active as a result of harsh winter

Pet goat mauled by bear

HARMONY TWP, N.J. - A Warren County, New Jersey family is heartbroken after their pet goat was mauled and killed by a bear, and the surrounding community is concerned that more encounters with bears could be on the way.

Zeke, a 13-year-old pygmy, was always known to safely hang around on the porch of his family's Harmony Township home with other pets cared for by the West family.

But, this always safe place became frightfully dangerous earlier this week when a black bear suddenly appeared in the night sky, mauled Zeke and dragged him into the woods.

"We heard him yelling; he was screaming for us," Joyce West said of Zeke. "It's really upsetting. He was our pet."

West said that while her family and other pets cannot bring back Zeke, she notes that there's plenty that can be done to prevent another family from sharing the same heartbreak.

She wants her neighbors, friends and fellow community members to know there's an aggressive bear somewhere in their neighborhood.

"I want people to be cautious. It's really scary," West said.

It's news that has other residents watching their backs a littler closer now. Nearby residents who spoke with 69 News said the incident is making them more alert.

Officials with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection estimate that there will be more sightings of black bears this year because of the harsh winter we had -- the bears in essence, are starving looking for food.

"This past winter was long and difficult for residents of New Jersey and our wildlife,'' said DEP Senior Wildlife Biologist Kelcey Burguess said in a news release. "Due to the severity of the winter and lack of mast in the forests last fall, black bears are now more desperately seeking food. Naturally occurring food sources, normally available at this time of year, remain scarce this spring, forcing bears into more developed areas in search of food.''

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