A Waterford Township elementary school was locked down today after a large black bear was spotted nearby.

The lockdown at the Thomas Richard Elementary School, 934 Lincoln Ave., started about 10 a.m. after the bear was sighted in the area of Ellwood, Richards, and Linden Avenues, not far from the school, police said.

Police pushed the bear into the woods off of Jackson Road near the Atco Raceway, which borders Wharton State Forest.

New Jersey Fish and Wildlife officers responded and will monitor the bear, police said in a statement.

The wildlife officers informed police that a family of bears has been living behind the raceway for "a few years," the statement said.

School District Superintendent Newlin Schoener said the lockdown was only precautionary and that parents were notified to meet their children at their school bus stops.

"I know they're safe now, I want them to be safe when they get home," he said while school was still in session.

In a statement posted on Facebook, police said, " All residents should be aware of their surroundings and do not attempt to approach the bear."

Anyone seeing the bear were asked to call police.

Once largely confined to the northwestern part of the state, black bears are now believed to be in every county in New Jersey.