Expanded bear hunt brings opposing opinions

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The expansion of New Jersey's Bear hunt is drawing both criticism and praise.

West Milford resident Rick Ashely says his family regularly has to deal with bears, which he says constantly break into his "bear-proof" garbage cans, eat the fruit from his apples trees and just generally cause a nuisance.

Ashley was happy to hear that the state decided to expand the hunt.

"It will be a good balance and the state can shut [the hunt] down when the numbers are satisfied," he says. "When I say shut it down, I mean that [each] season they have to have it open every year. Just like deer season. Just like other seasons."

The expansion adds six days to the season, beginning in October 2016. The policy also broadens hunting territories that will now include most of New Jersey's northern forests.

However, not everyone is in favor of the large hunt. Jeff Tittel with The New Jersey Sierra Club says just having a bigger hunt won't work.

"The Christie administration has eliminated almost all the education programs," says Tittel. "They've eliminated non-lethal bear management methods, which are teaching bears to be afraid of people by using air horns and pepper sprays... We're not enforcing 'do not feed the bear' laws."

Tittel says The Sierra Club would support a bear hunt under the proper circumstances, but says that the governor's administration has had a failed policy in managing bears. 

The DEP commissioner still needs to sign off on the new hunting parameters. Hunters will be allowed to kill one bear in each of the two annual seasons.

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