The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife announced Sunday that the state's annual black bear hunt will be extended by four days. The decision to extend the hunt was based on data showing that the harvest numbers for the first week of the hunt fell short of the NJDepartment of Environmental Protection's goals.

(JHWilliams, Thinkstock)

“The harvest numbers recorded this week have fallen short of our six-day wildlife management goal, which was arrived at through extensive science and research that has been ongoing since 2010,” NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a press release. “With the four-day extension, we will reach a harvest number that will keep the black bear population healthy and sustainable, while reducing the potential for conflicts with people.”

The second phase of the hunt will begin 30 minutes prior to sunrise on Wednesday, and will continue until 30 minutes after sunset on Saturday.

From Dec. 7-12, a total of 472 bears were harvested in northern New Jersey, with the highest totals on the first two days of the hunt. Carole Stanko, the acting chief for the Bureau of Wildlife Management, told NJ 101.5 last week that if the New Jersey bear population – estimated to be 3,500 – wasn’t cut by 20 percent by the end of the hunt, the culling could continue for a set period of time.

According to the NJDEP press release, northwestern New Jersey "has one of the nation’s densest populations of black bears, a situation that is forcing bears to expand territory into more populated areas of the state."

According to the NJDEP's new game code regulations, bear hunting season can be extended by four days if the hunting season not achieve goals "deemed necessary to provide better ecological balance to the bear population and reduce the potential for bear-human encounters," the press release states.

Thanks to spring like weather and a larger bear population this year’s bear hunt had the most kills since at least 2012.

Toniann Antonelli is the digital managing editor at NJ 101.5. Reach her at toniann.antonelli@townsquaremedia.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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