Reports of aggressive bears in New Jersey are showing a dramatic decline this year, according to the latest statistics from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Through Aug. 20, a total of 56 Category One bears were reported to DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, down from 146 through the same period last year.
The DEP, about a decade ago, devised a three-tier classification system for bears in New Jersey. Bears showing behavior deemed “an immediate threat to human safety,” or causing agricultural damage to farmland or property damage of at least $500, are classified as Category One and subject to being euthanized upon being captured.
The numbers to date reflect an escalation of a declining trend in aggressive bear reports. Reports of Category One bears slipped from 257 in 2009 to 235 in 2010 and to 200 last year.
By contrast, reports of Category One bears surged from 112 in 2007 to 276 in 2008.
Asked about the 2012 data so far, Division of Fish and Wildlife Assistant Director Larry Herrighty said it is too early to know whether the downward trend would hold through year’s end, but said the last two bear hunts were likely contributing factors to the diminishing reports of aggressive bears.
A total of 592 and 469 bears were killed in 2010 and 2011, respectively.