NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — Gov. Phil Murphy pledged to end the bear hunt when he ran for governor, but he said Thursday that he wants to bring it back.

It ran for years to control the bear population in New Jersey, but in the fall of 2021, there was no bear hunt after the expiration of the Comprehensive Black Bear Management Plan. Current black bear population in Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties is nearing 3,000.

“From the data we have analyzed to the stories we have heard from families across the state, it is clear that New Jersey’s black bear population is growing significantly, and nonlethal bear management strategies alone are not enough to mitigate this trend,” Murphy said. “Every New Jerseyan deserves to live in communities in which their children, families, and property are protected from harm, and while I committed to ending the bear hunt, the data demands that we act now to prevent tragic bear-human interactions.”

Black bear incidents reported to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection from January through October increased by 237% compared to the same period in 2021, according to the state. There were 62 aggressive encounters with people, one human attack, 12 dog attacks, 12 home entries, 15 attempted home entries, 84 instances of property damage exceeding $1,000, and 52 attacks on protected livestock.  

With the population expected to grow to more than 4,000 in the next two years, the state is considering reinstating a bear hunt from Dec. 5 through Dec. 10. It would be extended if a 20% population harvest target is not reached. Hunting would be allowed on state and private lands within designated bear hunting zones.