This month, they rallied in Mendham. Next month they will gather in Morristown. And while the Bear Group rallies for the safety and well being of all bears, there is one bear in particular who is on their minds.
The group’s mascot, Samantha, who died this year at 31-years old is in the forefront of the rally’s organizers.
According to Barbara Metzler, the rally last week on main street in Mendham was a “heartwarming success.”
“The people at the Memorial Rally hope to see an immediate end to bear hunts in New Jersey,” Metzler said. “It is the hope of the members of the Bear Education and Resource Group and the members of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey that all New Jersey Bears will have a long, happy life and will be respected by all the residents.”
Some who attended the rally had never met Samantha, who lived in Waywayanda State Park and was featured on much of the Bear Group’s promotional images, but still felt compelled to join the group in Mendham.
Roberta Shields of Morristown was one of those people.
“I think we have an obligation to put ourselves out a bit in order to live peacefully with our wild neighbors. If that means suspending bird feeding from April to December, buying a bear proof garbage can or putting the trash out the morning of collection not the night before, I think that is not too much to ask,” Shields said. “In the case of NJ Black Bears, I believe that public education, adverse conditioning of bears and enforcement of effective no feeding regulations are the solution to preventing problem encounters with black bears.”
Metzler said that even though Samantha lived in Waywayanda Park she was loved by people everywhere. High on that list of admirers was Susan Kehoe of Highland Lakes.
“I miss her so much,” said Kehoe, who developed a closeness to the bear when she visited her home. “She was always skittish, but we developed a trust. I never was afraid of her.”
Back in 1999 Samantha first visited Kehoe’s home and was scared up into a tree when Kehoe startled her accidentally.
“I coaxed her down with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which she ate with delight,” Kehoe said. “And the next day my husband came home to find the Samantha sitting on our lawn.”
Kehoe said she stopped feeding Samantha, but that the bear and her cubs came by to eat the wild blueberries on her property and to rest under the tall deck in her backyard.
“She was always gentle and timid and remained that way her entire life,” Kehoe said.
The next rally of the Bear Group is scheduled to take place on the Morristown Green on Nov. 3 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.