New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation intended to prevent bears from causing problems in residential neighborhoods.

The bill advanced by a Senate committee would require residents in communities near bear habitats to put their garbage in bear-resistant containers or face fines up to $1,000.

That requirement would have a significant impact, according to Kathleen Schatzman, the New Jersey director of the Humane Society.

"Not surprisingly, the vast majority of bear conflicts with humans are caused by food enticements bringing bears into too close contact with people," she said Thursday. "People often enjoy seeing bears yet don't realize how harmful their handouts and food piles are."

The legislation also would ban hunters from setting out bait for deer in areas known to be visited by bears. That's an effort to prevent bears from getting used to the scent of humans at those bait sites -- and then roam into neighborhoods where they can pose problems for people.

Penn State science professor Thomas Eveland also testified in support of the legislation on behalf of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey.

The bait sites lead to trouble down the line, he said.

"It's a place of joy for the cubs when they come in on these bait sites, wow this is fantastic, everyone is different, but there's one constant, and that's they always have the scent of humans," he said. "When these cubs grow up that's what they look for."

Eveland says the bears might then be more likely to roam into residential areas.