TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A state environmental agency has passed a plan to add new bear hunting areas and allow the use of bows and arrows.

The state’s Fish and Game Council approved the policy in August, and the state Department of Environmental Protection approved the plan on Monday.

“Hunting is an important tool in maintaining an ecological balance with our black bear population and is necessary to reduce the potential for conflicts between bears and people,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said.

The bear hunt will begin on Dec. 7 and run through Dec. 12. It will be permitted this year in most of Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Passaic and Mercer counties.

A six-day hunting season will be added next October. Three days will be reserved for bow hunting and the other three will allow hunting with bows and arrows and with muzzle-loading guns.

Hunters now will be able to take two bears, not one. The bears must be killed in separate seasons.

The new policy also permits an extension of the bear hunting season of up to four additional days if poor weather or other conditions result in a reduced harvest.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel, who seeks to protect wild places and promote the responsible use of resources, said the bear hunt changes “are only going to increase bear incidents.”

“Instead of more hunting, we need a real management plan, one that includes strong education and uses warning signs in the region, education materials at trail heads, enforcing not feeding bears and garbage management,” he said.

Officials say northwestern New Jersey has the highest density of black bears in their range, which includes most of the United States and Canada and parts of northern Mexico.