TRENTON — What was expected to be the last bear hunt for the foreseeable future will go on a few more days as the state hopes to reach its harvest goal for the year.

The hunt was expected to end on Saturday, but with fewer kills of tagged bears reported it will resume before sunrise on Wednesday. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife reported on Sunday that 21 previously tagged bears had been brought into check stations between the two hunts in October and December. That is only 15.6 percent of the 135 bears that had been tagged this year.

According to state regulations, the hunt has to be extended if a minimum of 20 percent of the tagged bears have not been killed.

“Our goal is to utilize accepted scientific methodologies to maintain a sustainable bear population in the areas of the state where the population is densest, at the same time enhancing public safety by reducing the risk of encounters that could threaten property or endanger people,” Fish and Wildlife Director Larry Herrighty said in a statement.

The state reported a total of 244 bears were harvested in October, bringing the total between the two hunts to 382. The areas for the hunt includes all of Sussex, Warren, Morris and Hunterdon counties, as well as parts of Passaic, Somerset, Bergen, and Mercer counties.

About 60 people protested the hunt in Fredon Township on Saturday's final scheduled day. On Thursday, a hunter killed the 4,000th bear since the bear hunt resumed in 2003, following a three-decade moratorium. The hunt is now expected to end after sunset on Saturday, Dec. 16.

Governor-elect Phil Murphy had said during his campaign that if elected he would call for a moratorium on the hunt to determine if it was the best option to control the species' population.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. 

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