New Jersey's annual black bear hunting season will begin Dec. 8 and continue until Dec. 13. The state has held a black bear hunt every December since 2010. 

Black Bears
JHWilliams, Thinkstock

"The goal is to reduce the number of black bears, particularly in Northwest Jersey, which is our bear country in New Jersey," said Larry Ragonese, director of communications for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Decreasing the black bear population, according to Ragonese, will lower the number of bear and human encounters and reduce livestock kills and house break-ins.

Wildlife biologists with the DEP expect the outcome of this year's hunt to be similar to 2013, when 251 bears were harvested.

Hunting zones will be set up in Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon counties, in addition to western Bergen County.  The six-day hunt runs 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

Animal rights advocates rallied in Trenton on Dec. 4 to call on New Jersey to ban hunters from baiting bears and to criticize Gov. Chris Christie for allowing the hunt.  They claim the hunt isn't necessary, and said if the DEP had more stringent regulations for people living in bear country, such as requiring bear-proof trash cans, bruins would steer clear of humans.

But the DEP disagrees.

"The hunt is necessary, because we have an obligation to manage our ecosystem here in New Jersey, whether it be bear or white-tailed deer or any other creature that would put it out of balance- our job here is to manage it. That's our job as adults here," Ragonese said.

Bears can be found in all 21 counties in New Jersey, but Ragonese said they don't know what the total population is. Some estimates from the DEP show approximately 2,200 to 2,500 black bears living in the hunting area north of Route 78 and west of Route 287. That is down from an estimated 3,400 bears in 2010. There have been black bear sightings in Central and South Jersey, but the number of bears living in these areas remain low.

Only licensed hunters are allowed to participate in the six-day hunt, according to Ragonese.  A permit is also necessary to participate in the hunt.  The state plans to allocate a maximum of 10,000 hunting permits.

"The bottom line is that some folks would prefer that we take no action on anything to do with animals but that's not realistic. When bears end up in someone's home, when they end up in someone's campsite or killing their livestock, those bears end up being euthanized," Ragonese said.


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