Bear/human encounters have dropped sharply in New Jersey this year, according to a new report from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The report from the Division of Fish and Wildlife indicates only 216 sightings have taken place in 2017, compared to 722 last year.

Black Bear sightings in New Jersey have averaged 852 per year in the seven previous years.

"The damage and nuisance is down by almost exactly 50 percent, which really can be held to all of the facets of our comprehensive black bear management program," spokesman Rob Geist says.

Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has said he will halt the hunts to look at other ways to manage the bear population.

But Geist says the science is in on hunting.

"The science has been proven by a 2016 Utah State study that showed that the well-regulated harvest of a carefully monitored black bear population represents a pragmatic approach to achieve population objectives. The Division of Fish and Wildlife is a science-driven organization. We are led by the science, the math and the facts of what goes on."

Geist says this year's extended bear hunt, which harvested 409 bears, was one factor, as well as relocating problematic bears that habitually wander into residential areas.

"There is property damage. There can be livestock damage. And a thing that is not noticed as much is bear/human vehicle damage."

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