With this year's black bear hunt over and done with, New Jersey wildlife officials are turning their attention to a new animal, the coyote. New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Andrew Burnett estimates the population could be between 5,000 and 10,000 in the Garden State.

In comparison, the bear tally before the December hunt was estimated at 3,400. While the bruins are concentrated in the northern section of the state, the resourceful canines have been spotted in all 21 counties. "We've documented coyotes in 390 of the state's 565 municipalities," said Burnett. "Top spots for coyote hunters are Ocean and Cumberland counties."

Through March 15, an estimated 2,000 permit holders will hit the woods seeking out the coyotes after dark. Burnett estimates about 10 will be harvested. "They're known for being elusive. They're very intelligent animals. The United States government just spent 200 years trying to eradicate them out west unsuccessfully. Once you have coyotes, they're almost impossible to get rid of. They're very adaptable, they live in a variety of habitats and eat a variety of different things."

"If you have small animals, you have to be careful because coyotes have been known to take them off a leash," said Burnett. "Many people have gotten bitten trying to keep their animals from being taken."