UNION TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — A deer hunter in a tree stand fatally shot a black bear that began climbing up the tree toward him after it got within a few feet of him, state wildlife officials said.
The Sayreville man was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun on Saturday morning when he inadvertently made noise that drew the young male bear's attention, authorities said. The bear, estimated to weigh about 85 to 100 pounds, then began climbing up one of the tree trunks supporting the stand, which was 10 to 12 feet high.
The hunter shouted at the bear several times, hoping to scare it away, which is recommended by wildlife officials, but the bear kept climbing, authorities said. The hunter shot the bear when it was about 3 feet away because he feared for his safety, they said.
The shooting happened in Hunterdon County, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said.
The bear fell out of the tree and landed on the ground. The hunter left the stand and soon found a fisherman nearby, and they contacted the DEP to report the shooting, which occurred outside black bear hunting season.
Evidence found at the scene appeared to confirm the hunter's account, Ragonese said. It's unclear if the bear was trying to attack the hunter or if it smelled something on him, such as the residual odor of food.
The hunter had first noticed the bear walking in the area about an hour before the shooting occurred, Ragonese said.
Wildlife officials say the hunter did just about everything they recommend to make a bear flee and won't face any charges.
The last state bear hunt, which lasted six days, ended on Dec. 13. About 270 black bears were killed in six counties, with only five killed in Hunterdon.
The number of reports of aggressive bears has dropped since the hunts resumed in 2010. But a Rutgers University student, Darsh Patel, was mauled to death by a bear in September while hiking with friends. Patel's death is the only known bear mauling in state history.