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Charges have been filed against a New Jersey man suspected of fatally shooting four bear cubs in a New Jersey state park, stunning nearby residents.

The suspect, 22-year-old Matthew Ligus, baited the cubs with food, then shot them with a rifle at the edge of Ringwood State Park in Passaic County, according to police.

Ligus, of Ringwood, was issued summonses charging him with using a firearm without a license, hunting out of season, hunting with an illegal weapon and ammunition, hunting during a closed season and careless discharge of a firearm. The charges all carry fines and will be adjudicated in municipal court.

Ligus was charged after a hiker discovered three of the cubs dead on a visit to park Monday, according to ABC-7. New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers who checked out the site found the fourth cub dead nearby.

Residents often spotted the cubs with their mother in the park, New Jersey TV-12 reported. Neighbors shared photos and videos of the bruin family on social media. Some reported that recent pictures appeared to show the cubs dead with their mother watching over them.

Residents told ABC-7 they were disgusted by what they considered a “slaughter.”

“Everyone I’ve talked to is devastated by this cruel and senseless act,” one resident told

“We were upset and heartbroken,” Amber Vonzweh told ABC-7. “Pretty much everyone in town was upset.”

Bear hunting had been banned in the state for years, but was recently reinstated by the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Conservation Center amid a surge in the black bear population.

Legal hunting will be allowed on public and private property for several days, but not until next month. Hunting cubs under 75 pounds and any family groups with cubs under that weight is illegal at all times.

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