Jersey Shore Snookie Bear

Black bears that roam New Jersey's western hills are now being reported near a locale known for a different type of wild life: the Jersey Shore.

Up to 12 black bear sightings have been called in over the past three weeks by residents in Ocean County, said Jackson Township Police Sergeant Edward Bennett on Wednesday.

Authorities were trying to determine if that signifies one very active bear or a larger population.

"It could be he, or it could be they or it could be she," Bennett said.

Jackson Township is located in Ocean County, better known to the world as the home of the Jersey Shore, the original partying grounds for reality TV star Snooki and her crew.

As the name implies, the Jersey Shore features ocean beaches.

Wildlife officials said construction and development throughout the state may be squeezing bears out of their usual habitat and forcing them to search for new open space.

"They're moving," Robin Staley, Jackson's animal control officer, said of the bears. "Everything is coming down from up north because of building."

Bennett said that based on descriptions by residents, at least one of the bears foraging around the township measures about 7 feet long.

(Reuters--Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)