A 22-year-old New Jersey man was arrested and charged Tuesday with illegally shooting and killing four black bear cubs, according to officials.
Matthew Ligus received multiple summonses after allegedly killing the cubs, which could amount to fines between $1,610 and $5,760, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as reported by NJ.com.
Officers with the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Conservation received a call Sunday afternoon reporting three dead bears in Ringwood, New Jersey, according to DEP spokesman Larry Hajna.
The call was reportedly first made to State Park Police by a hiker in Ringwood State Park, a park in northeastern New Jersey that encompasses about 4,444 acres.
“[Police] responded to the scene, off Valley Road along the border of the state park, and began an investigation with assistance from NJ State Park Police and the Ringwood Township Police Department,” Hajna said in a statement. “Upon arrival, they located a fourth dead bear cub.”
Authorities said that investigators determined the cubs had been fatally shot.
Local residents reportedly often saw the cubs accompanied by an adult bear and told local News 12 that they did not mind the sightings. Pictures of the bear family often circulated on local social media.
During an ongoing investigation, Ligus was charged with hunting with firearm without a firearm license, hunting a bear during a closed season, careless discharge of a firearm, discharging a firearm within 450 feet of an occupied dwelling, possessing or using illegal ammunition and hunting a bear with an illegal weapon.
The New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Council voted Tuesday to approve a proposal to revive the state’s bear hunting season, though it does not apply to cubs under 75 pounds.
Farmers and residents have complained about the surging black bear population and the DEP reports that encounters with bears have increased by 237% over 2021 numbers, according to reporting from News 12 New Jersey.
Fox News’ Michael Lee contributed to this report.