If fewer black bears are hunted and killed each year, it could open the door to a greater rate of interaction between bears and humans.

The Department of Environmental Protection has announced plans to increase tactics aimed at reducing these interactions, as a complement to Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order closing state lands to the 2018 bear hunt.

"We're stressing nonlethal methods of bear management," said DEP spokesman Larry Hajna.

The multi-faceted approach, leading up to and during the state's hunt period, includes the distribution of bear-safety information for residents living in "bear country," and a large, regional training session for law enforcement officers on methods to manage interactions between black bears and the public, Hajna said. The DEP plans to provide training sessions to any law enforcement entity that requests them.

In addition, the Department will form a team to work with local and county governments to enhance their waste management policies and practices to prevent black bears from accessing food waste.

"Garbage management is really one of the key issues," Hajna said. "Bears have a very acute sense of smell. They can smell something two miles away."

The governor's executive order does not extend to bear hunting on private, federal, county or municipal lands. Hajna said about 40 percent of the annual harvest is typically killed on state lands.

The 2017 harvest was 409, Hajna said.

Black bears have been sighted in all 21 counties, but their population is densest in the northwestern portion of the state, DEP said.

Segment A of the 2018 bear season opens on Oct. 8. Segment B is scheduled to begin Dec. 3.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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