Bear hunters in West Virginia will have a new and fertile hunting field this fall.

The West Virginia Natural Resources Commission voted 3-2 last week to open a section of the Cranberry Wilderness Area to bear hunting.

The area, which lies in parts of Webster, Pocahontas, and Greenbrier Counties, has been a black bear sanctuary since 1967.

A second sanctuary at Spruce Knob was created in 1972 to preserve the state animal at a time when the species had fallen on hard times.

Cranberry was the last sanctuary.

When the bear sanctuaries were established in West Virginia, the population of black bear in the state had fallen to fewer than 500.

Today, the bear population is estimated at 12,000.

The DNR says while bears are not aggressive or prone to attacks, they advise that black bears are still wild animals and discourage human activity around them because of unpredictability.

Bears looking for an easy meal in the Cranberry often harass hikers, fishermen, and campers and the U.S. Forest Service has spent a fortune trying to create a better "bear proof trashcan."

The first hunting season in Cranberry will come this October with archery season and will continue with the traditional December hunting season, which includes hunting the bears with hounds.