Curious Black Bear Comes Within Inches of New Jersey Hikers Resting at Trail Viewpoint

A group of hikers encountered an unlikely guest while sitting down for lunch on a popular New Jersey trail.

Back in June, Julie Tupey, 25, and her fellow hiker friends were trekking the Stairway to Heaven trail in Sussex County when they came within inches of a large black bear.

Tupey's friend, Joe Kun, told the Daily Mail that their group decided to go take a hike as a fun outdoor activity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was early on in the summer in the middle of June when New Jersey was still under a rather strict lockdown because of the coronavirus," Kun explained. 'There wasn't much to do at the time so we decided to go hiking at a very popular trail called Stairway to Heaven in Vernon, NJ which has a viewpoint at the top of the trail."

When the group reached the viewpoint, they decided to take a break for lunch, when a "black bear emerged from the woods at the end of the rock formation," Kun, 25, said.

As a group of experienced hikers, seeing a bear in the distance wasn't uncommon, Kun said.

When the bear began to get closer, however, this was something the group was not used to.

"I have seen bears before but never this close," Kun, a real estate agent, explained.

Kun caught the nerve-racking experience on camera, in which the bear is seen inching toward Tupey, who was sitting on top of a rock.

"As the bear had already passed us once we expected it to simply go back into the woods where it originally came from," Kun shared. "Once the bear made it to our spot on the rocks and started coming towards us I realized that it wasn't afraid and wasn't going to stop, so we needed to get up and go."

In the clip, viewers can hear Kun warning Tupey of the animal and urging that she calmy back away.

"I think we should move. Just slow, slow. Oh my goodness," Kun said in the background of the video.

Kun said that the group did not report the bear to authorities because it "didn't exhibit any aggressive behaviors."

"We were in nature, after all, the bear had every right to be there," he said.

The population of black bears in New Jersey has increased dramatically over the past few decades, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reported. There have been black bear sightings in all 21 of the state's counties.

The species is an integral part of the state's natural heritage and ecosystems, the department added.

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