New Jersey will be expanding its winter bear hunt into October next year, under rules formally adopted by the state Monday.

The newly adopted rules add a bear hunt in October to December hunting season that's been in place for five years. The new rules also expand hunting zones in areas where bear incidents have been increasing, according to the state.

The policy was previously approved by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council and signed by Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin. It was formally adopted Monday as part of New Jersey Game Code through publication in the New Jersey Register.

“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, particularly in northwestern New Jersey, which has the state’s densest bear population,” Martin said said in a statement from the DEP. “The comprehensive policy we have adopted is based on the most up-to-date science and population estimates, and continues to stress the importance of research and public education.”

The Sierra Club, an opponent of the bear hunt, told New Jersey Advance Media earlier this year the hunt had been a failure — and that New Jersey needed to invest more in education as part of a bear management plan. Director Jeff Tittle said residents needed to be taught to safeguard garbages and live responsibly in bear country.

'The DEP is ignoring the bear facts," he said. "The plan is doubling down on a management plan that hasn't worked."


The 2015 hunting season will take place Dec. 7 through 12. The current hunting zone, approved in 2010, includes a roughly 1,000-square-mile area of areas in Hunterdon, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties, and a small portion of Bergen County.

Effective this year, the current zones in which hunting is permitted will be expanded to include the remainders of Hunterdon and Morris counties, a small additional portion of Passaic County, and a small portion of Mercer County, the DEP said Monday.

Bear hunting will also be extended to all of Somerset County, with the exception of Franklin.

"These expansions will help control the population in areas where reports of bear and human encounters have been increasing due to bears expanding their habitat," the DEP wrote.

Starting next year, an additional six-day October hunting season will include three days for bow hunting only and three days for bow hunting and hunting with muzzle-loading guns.

According to the DEP, the bear population "has not decreased significantly because reproduction rates, known as recruitment, have exceeded mortality from hunting and natural causes."

It said the number of bears harvested in hunts over the last five years dropped steadily not because there were fewer bears to find, but because of poor weather "and a more wary bear population."