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N.J. Hunters, Residents Push For Bigger Bear Hunt

WEST MILFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) –  Seeing a black bear cross your path in northwest New Jersey is no longer unusual—it's becoming the norm. Bear hunting is held every year to keep the population down.

But CBS 2's Vanessa Murdock reported, some homeowners say with a population of more than 2,500 black bears, it isn't enough.

Black bears have been caught on camera, like one walking upright in Jefferson Township. Another was spotted in a backyard in Wyckoff and another hanging out in the middle of Ridgewood.

Then, there was a deadly encounter when 22-year-old Darsh Patel was mauled to death while hiking in the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford.

The bear

Hunter Eric Bunk lives in West Milford and says a bigger hunt is necessary to bring the numbers back into balance.

"We want them to be viewed as an asset, not a liability," he said.

He says the six-day-long hunt in December is insufficient.

As Murdock reported, in 2013, 10,000 bear hunt permits were available, the state issued 7,500. During that hunt, 251 bears were killed.

Bunk wants the hunt earlier in the season and says it should last longer.

"We need a season when bears are on the move and actively looking for food, not denning up," he said.

On Wednesday night, he brought his concerns to a council meeting where they agreed. The council declared the township of West Milford wants to reduce its bear population.

New Milford Council To Ask State To Extend Bear Hunting Season

"This year I just started noticing them more and more," Councilwoman Michele Dale said.

Dale says bears are just getting too comfortable with people.

"When I used to clap my hands and tell them to move through, they would pick up their pace and get going. Now they just kind of stand there," she said.

But not everyone is in favor of a bigger hunt. In fact, many are completely against hunting bears at all.

"I'd rather see them captured and taken somewhere safe," one resident said.

CBS 2 asked the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection if there is any chance the bear hunt will be expanded this year, to which a spokesman answered, "not at this time."

The DEP said changes to the hunt may be considered next year.

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