On Monday, Dec. 7, the state of New Jersey will add hundreds of square miles to their bear hunting zone.
In northwest New Jersey, the state will add 633 square miles to the 1,000-square-mile zone of the bear hunting area, which will continue through Sunday.
This new mandate in the hunting realm occurred due to an increased number of both bear sightings and incidents in residential areas. Blacks bears are common in northern New Jersey, and the state has already chosen to expand the harvesting season in 2016.
The state is also asking hunters to begin taking part in the harvesting of the bears, if they aren't are already.
Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection that coincides with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, spoke to that by acknowledging, "Yes, we would like to see an increase in the harvest...We expanded the overall hunting area because bear-human incidents were occurring in areas."
This comes on the heels of the black bear population increase as there are 3,5000 estimated bears in the area of the state that is mostly rural and wooded areas, like west of Route 287 and north of Route 78. The bear hunt since 2010 has included areas of Hunterdon, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties.
The expansion of the hunting area spreads mostly into each of these counties, with the exception of Franklin Township in Somerset County.
In the first year of the bear hunt that was introduced, 592 bears were harvested, however the number has decreased slowly and steadily leading to today, as only 272 bears were harvested in 2014.
As of Wednesday, Dec. 2, the department issued 6,000 permits with 5,000 permits still available, but they are unsure that all will be used.
Critics of the bear hunt claim that it is cruel, unnecessary, and is thus far, ineffective. They also point to ways on how to educate the population of New Jersey to respect their furry friends, specifically because they live in bear country. Included in this is to enforce the efforts to prevent the population from feeding bears.
Bear check stations will be open in the following regions, found here, from noon to 7 p.m., and all bears must take their black bear to a check station on the day of the kill to be issued the legal possession seal.
New Jersey hunters, we encourage you to claim and use your specific Black Bear Hunting Area permits in the area.