Bear hunters in New Jersey are going to get a second chance at bagging a bruin this year.
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife announced Sunday that it will extend this year's hunt for four more days beginning Wednesday.
The second phase of the hunt will begin 30 minutes before sunrise on Wednesday and continue until 30 minutes after sunset on Saturday. Hunters who have already harvested a bear this season won't be eligible to participate in the extended hunt.
State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said the number of bears harvested during the six-day hunt that ended Saturday fell short of goals. Hunters killed 472 of the bruins, Martin said.
"The harvest numbers recorded this week have fallen short of our six-day wildlife management goal, which was arrived at through extensive science and research that has been ongoing since 2010," Martin said in a statement. "With the four-day extension, we will reach a harvest number that will keep the black bear population healthy and sustainable, while reducing the potential for conflicts with people."
The DEP based its decision on the rate of bears that had been previously tagged and were brought to harvest stations during this year's hunt.
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Of 133 tagged bears available for the purposes of calculating hunt harvest rates, 24 were brought to check stations, an 18 percent harvest rate. Under new DEP policy enacted this year, the hunting season can be extended if the harvest rate falls below 20 percent.
New Jersey resumed bear hunting in 2003 after more than 30 years.
State wildlife officials said the annual hunt is an important part of their bear management plan and helps control the bear population. Activists and other critics contend it is inhumane and unnecessary.
The state recently expanded the areas where hunting is allowed. It is permitted this year in all or portions of Hunterdon, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties, and parts of Bergen and Mercer counties.