New Jerseyans have conflicting opinions about bears as bow hunt approaches

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New Jersey’s black bear hunt will begin on Oct. 14 – with bow hunting only for the first two days, followed by bow hunting and muzzleloader guns after.

New Jersey’s black bear hunt is a controversial topic - with many strong opinions from state residents who support and oppose the hunt.

State officials say that the bear population in New Jersey has been on the rise since the 1980s, with black bears being spotted in all 21 counties in New Jersey. Rockaway Township resident Kathy Caldwell says that she had a close encounter with a bear just last month.

"I was watering my flowers and I all of a sudden turned after water them for a little while and I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and I saw a black bear,” she says.

The encounter was recorded on Caldwell’s doorbell security camera. Caldwell was not hurt in the encounter, but the bear was only about 10 feet away from where she was gardening.

WATCH: Bear surprises woman while she waters flowers

"It's kind of scary because the bear walked across the street and watched me the whole time I was watering the flowers,” she says.

Caldwell says that she has seen bears in her neighborhood several times. State officials say that there was a total of 900 bear sighting reports in New Jersey in 2018. But those who are opposed to the bear hunt say that they do not think that it is necessary.

"We are concerned that given the last couple of hunts that the population of the black bears in New Jersey has dropped so low that there’s no real justification for the hunt anymore,” says Jeff Tittle with the New Jersey Sierra Club.

But hunters say that the bear hunt is important for the preservation of the state’s ecosystem.

"Bears in New Jersey are one of the most overpopulated animals in the state. We actually have two populations that are the densest in North America - human beings and bears,” says Cody McLaughlin with the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.

Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on ending the bear hunt in New Jersey. Last year he banned hunting on state-owned land. He says that he is still working to fully end the bear hunt.

“It just proves to be a lot more complicated than I thought,” he told News 12 New Jersey.

A second bear hunt is expected to take place in December.

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