Wildlife officials were caring for three orphaned bear cubs after New Jersey police killed their mother earlier this week.

The cubs, which are a few months old and weigh 18 to 20 pounds each, were taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center Thursday, where they will be taken care of until they are able to return to the wild after police in a northern New Jersey community shot and killed their mother.

Cops killed two bears who broke into homes in separate incidents in the same neighborhood on Thursday, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Another bear was tranquilized after being caught in a trap at a third home in the Highland Lakes section of Vernon, but was later released.

The first incident occurred just before 11 a.m., when police received a report that a bear was inside a home, said Darlene Yuhas, a DEP spokeswoman. She said officers chased the female bear and her three cubs, all of which ran up into a nearby tree.

After authorities conferred with DEP officials, a township officer was given permission to shoot and kill the mother bear, Yuhas said. The cubs were taken to the wildlife rehabilitation center.

A few hours later, police received another report of a bear inside a nearby home, Yuhas said. Police chased the bruin, which climbed a nearby tree along with its two cubs, and it was fatally shot after officers consulted with the DEP.

The bear, though, remained lodged in the tree after it was shot, Yuhas said, and the DEP helped lower the bruin to the ground. The two bear cubs were later taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Yuhas said state biologists have determined that in situations where bears break into homes, damage property or attack other animals such as pets, they should generally be euthanized.

"Those are the most serious situations. Those are the most serious bear incidents," Yuhas said.

According to Yuhas, in less serious situations — such as when a bear wanders through town but does not injure anyone — bears are not euthanized.

After years of dwindling numbers, the black bear population has skyrocketed in New Jersey. The bruins have been spotted in every county in the state, but are concentrated in northern Jersey where bears are a common sight.

Last year, DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson canceled a controversial bear hunt planned for December, saying that more work needed to be done in educating people in how to prevent bears from coming into contact with humans such as keeping garbage indoors or getting rid of bird feeders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.