New Jerseyans have been arguing the last few years over how best to manage the state's increasingly pesky black bears.

With human and bear populations rising, bear-human encounters have ranged from from simple nuisance bears foraging in residential trash cans or invading backyard bird feeders to the problem of bears losing their fear of humans, which poses a safety threat to people and can have fatal result for bears.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has released a new film documentary and companion school curriculum to help educate residents about sharing the landscape with black bears.

More than four years in the making, the 60-minute documentary Living with New Jersey Black Bears by producer Dan Bertalan was developed with help from New Jersey wildlife experts.

The state's black bear population is estimated at more than 3,400 in the northwestern part of the state, but sightings have been increased in recent years, with reports logged in all 21 counties.

"Understanding Black Bears," an adapted, interactive classroom version of the documentary, is available free to teachers or school districts.

These new tools are part of the state's educational portion of its Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, which was approved last year.

"Black bears are part of the wide ranging mix of wildlife that lives in our state, providing an incredible diversity that requires consistent and professional management by our fish and wildlife experts," said Amy Cradic, the DEP's assistant commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources. "This new film and curriculum will provide an important tool in helping our residents learn to coexist with black bears and to better understand the complex nature of the job faced by our top-notch wildlife team."

For more information on the state's black bear population, and to view the state's Comprehensive Black Bear Management policy, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/bearfacts.htm