New Jersey expands bear-hunting season

 Kim Tinnes, with New Jersey's Division of Fish and Wildlife, weighs a bear brought to the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area for check-in on the first day of the last of New Jersey's five state-sponsored bear hunts in December 2014 in Fredon. (AP file photo)

Kim Tinnes, with New Jersey's Division of Fish and Wildlife, weighs a bear brought to the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area for check-in on the first day of the last of New Jersey's five state-sponsored bear hunts in December 2014 in Fredon. (AP file photo)

New Jersey will be getting a longer bear-hunting season this year — and an extra week next year.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin has said he’ll sign rules approved by the state Fish and Game Council extending the annual hunt.

“This year’s hunt, instead of a one-week hunt, we have the ability to extend it by four days depending on weather conditions and the number of bears harvested,” Martin said Thursday. “Next year, we’ll have two segments to the hunt. One hunt in October where people will be able to use bow hunts for one week, and then the second week will still be the December hunt as well.”

Hunters killed fewer bears because of bad weather during the past two December seasons, Martin said. So the bear population and interactions with humans are increasing.

“That’s why we have a long-term black bear management plan in place, which includes lethal and nonlethal objectives in there,” Martin said. “A lot of it includes educating the public about what they leave outside; leaving gates open; leaving pets outside; leaving pet food outside; and all the rest of that. So it’s an education process not just a hunt.”

About 3,500 bears now roam the state, and an increasing number of them have been wandering into residents’ yards in search of food.

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