The bear population in New Jersey is exploding, with serious bear incidents up by 96 percent since 2006. The state Department of Environmental Protection estimates there are about 3,400 bears in the northwestern part of the state alone, with bears having been encountered in every one of New Jersey’s 21 counties. There have been 1,261 black bear incidents reported since January, 76 of which were considered “Category One” aggressive incidents. This has resulted in 13 bears being euthanized this year, compared with eight during the same period last year. Other bears involved in these incidents were not caught. In response, the DEP has approved the state’s first black-bear hunt since 2005. The hunt, which takes place during the December deer-hunting season, will be held in portions of a 1,000 square-mile are north of Route 78 and west of Route 287 in Morris, Sussex, Warren, Passaic, Hundterdon and Somerset counties.