Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin today approved a Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, a common sense mix of bear management tools that would include the state’s first black bear hunt since 2005 to deal with an overpopulation of bears and problems they are causing, especially in northern parts of the State.

The bear population in northwestern New Jersey has grown from 500 bears in 1992 to more than 3,400 bears today, and bears have now been encountered in all 21 New Jersey counties. Although bear-related complaints vary from year to year due to environmental factors, serious bear incidents have increased commensurate with the black bear population, up by 96 percent from 2006 through 2009, according to DEP wildlife officials. There have been several encounters with aggressive black bears in recent weeks, they noted.

Despite response to problem bears by DEP personnel and trained local police officers, bear complaints continue to rise. There were 1,261 black bear incidents, including 76 Category One aggressive incidents, reported to the DEP between Jan.1 and June 20. So far this year, 13 aggressive black bears have been euthanized, compared to 8 bears during the same period in 2009, according to the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Many other aggressive bears have not been caught.

A black bear hunt would take place in December, concurrent with the six-day firearm deer hunting season, with specific rules to be set up by the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife in coming months. It would be held in portions of a 1,000 square-mile area north of Route 80 in Morris, Sussex, Warren and Passaic counties.

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