New Jersey's third annual bear hunt began Monday, with the first black bear brought in as part of the hunt killed in Sussex County.
The bear, a 165-pound male, was three years old and was not lured by hunters, according to The Record. The second killed bear brought in was a year-and-a-half old and was killed near Sparta.
The bear hunt, which is designed to help control the state's black bear population, will continue until Saturday and is held in conjunction with the firearm deer-hunting season. According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), 469 black bears were harvested last year while 50,109 deer were harvested.
Bears are allowed to be hunted by licensed hunters with black bear permits, one bear per hunter, in zones in Morris, Sussex, Warren and northern Passaic counties. Other approved hunting zones include small sections of Somerset, Bergen and Hunterdon counties.
The weeklong bear hunt was approved as part of the state's Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy in 2010. NJDEP estimated between 2,800 and 3,000 black bears were living in northwestern New Jersey this year, down from approximately 3,400 in 2010.
This year, more than 6,500 black bear hunting permits were issued.
"We are working to stabilize and reduce the state’s black bear population, to eventually be maintained at a density that minimizes human/bear conflicts, provides for a sustainable population within suitable bear habitat, and minimizes movement of bears to unsuitable habitat in suburban and urban areas,’’ Dave Chanda, director of the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, said in a press release.
While bears have seemed to be somewhat of a nuisance to some New Jersey residents this year, state officials said last week bear sightings are down, when compared with last year, by 34 percent; nuisance and damage complaints are down by 26 percent and dangerous bear incidents are down by 43 percent through the end of October.
There have been no bear-human incidents in more than two years, according to the DEP. Bears are typically not aggressive toward humans according to Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the NJDEP.
"It's very rare that a black bear attacks a human being in New Jersey," he said. "Some people think black bears are like grizzly bears but they're not."
Should bears be hunted in New Jersey?