TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey's bear hunt could be expanded under a plan approved Tuesday by the state's Fish and Game Council.
The council approved adding an October hunt next year, expanding the geographic area of the hunt starting this year and increasing the number of bears hunters can claim.
While nearly 2,000 bears have been killed in the last five hunts, the Department of Environmental Protection says bear-human interactions increased by 60 percent last year. Using studies conducted by Penn State University and established research methodology, the Division of Fish and Wildlife estimates there are about 3,500 bears in the northwest part of the state, about the same number as there were before the hunts resumed in 2010.
The new policy authorizes a hunt for this December and then two next year. The first, in October 2016, will be six days and be restricted to bow hunting for three days and hunting by bow and muzzle-loaded gun for three days.
Beginning this year, the hunting area will be expanded to include all of Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris counties, plus small parts of Passaic and Mercer counties. In addition, hunters will be allowed to kill two bears beginning next year, provided one is killed in the October hunt and the second in December. Currently hunters are restricted to killing one bear.
The new policy also reemphasizes the importance of public education efforts, particularly in urban areas and parts of the state where bears have begun to proliferate in recent years.
The new policy must be approved by the Environmental Protection Department's commissioner and will be subjected to a 60-day public comment period.