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March 4, 2015

Bears are smart. While New Jersey instituted an annual bear hunt five years ago with the goal of trimming the population, the number of black bears in the state has remained the same -- about 3,500. What’s more, the hunt has resulted in fewer bears being killed each year -- from a high of 592 in the first year to less than 300 this past year.

The Department of Environmental Protection points to the fact that bears have become more wary during hunting season, as well as poor weather, and that bears in this part of the country are more fertile than in other parts of the country.

As a result, the DEP is calling for two hunts a year -- one in December, as has been typical, and another in October, before hibernation season. The DEP also plans to expand the zone in which hunting can occur, and allow bow hunting in addition to firearms.

Some environmental groups are opposed to the bear hunt. The Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel said that the hunts are “unfounded, unwarranted, and will not help manage bears in the state.” What’s needed, said Tittel, is a management plan that will educate the public on habitats and garbage. He said that funding for bear management has been reduced by 90 percent and that in past years, the state hired bear wardens to help educate the public. “This is really about a trophy hunt and getting more people to hunt than managing bears,” he said.

The DEP plan must be published in the New Jersey register and opened for a 60-day comment period before adoption. More information is available on the DEP website.

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