You may or may not have noticed a lack of headlines for black bear encounters across New Jersey. State officials are crediting new numbers to the success of two years of black bear harvests.

The black bear hunt drew some criticism and court battles, but so far the results, are undeniable.

“Bear complaint calls and bear sightings are actually down, and they’ve been trending down since we reinstated our black bear hunting season,” explains Patrick Carr, a Supervising Wildlife Biologist with the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

In addition to the hunt, Carr attributes these trends to an aggressive black bear management program, now in place, that includes an education program, killing dangerous bears, and a bear feeding ban.

“The success of our hunting season is such that we are reducing our population, and that’s by design,” Carr said, “And we are harvesting nuisance bears.”

He estimates that about 20% of those harvested bears were nuisance bears. The 2010 harvest resulted in the hunting of 592 black bears, while this year’s netted 469.

As for complaints and encounters, Carr says that complaint calls between January and the last check through April 20th were at 159.

“Last year, they were at 184 at this time,” he said, “In the year before that in 2010, they were at 461, so that’s significantly down. That’s down by 2/3.”

Based on the successes of the program, another hunt is scheduled for late fall this year.

In the meantime, Carr offers some tips to avoid attracting black bears to your property, which include securing trash, cleaning off grills, putting bird-feeders inside, and not letting any lingering bears get too comfortable near your home.

Most importantly, do not intentionally feed bears, as that will draw you a citation.