200 bears killed on 1st day of NJ's 6-day hunt

December 6, 2011 4:38:12 AM PST
Wildlife officials estimate that 200 bears were killed Monday on the first day of the state's black bear hunt.

State officials have said the six-day hunt is needed to reduce the state's bruin population, now estimated at about 3,400. But critics say the state's bear management policy is flawed and was developed arbitrarily.

Animal advocates had gone to court to block the hunt, but they were rebuffed Thursday by a state appellate court. They spent part of Monday securing permission to demonstrate at various bear check stations.

Attorneys for animal rights group wanted to demonstrate at the Franklin bear check station in Sussex County, which they said was the most visible spot for the public to see their anti-hunting message. But wildlife officials wanted to keep protesters away from the Franklin station over safety concerns, noting its limited space and location on a major highway.

A state Superior Court ruled that as many as 25 people could protest at that site and granted demonstrators the right to have larger protests at two other weigh stations.

One protester was arrested at the Franklin site for refusing to move from a restricted area.

Environmental Protection Department officials said the hunt's first day went smoothly. About 150 bears had been processed by late afternoon, with 200 total expected by nightfall, they said.

Officials say 8,000 permits have been issued to about 6,500 hunters for this year's hunt.

Bear hunting is taking place all week in portions of a 1,000-square-mile area north of Route 78 and West of Route 287. This area is divided into four Bear Management Zones, including portions of Bergen, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties, which are home to the majority of the state's black bears.

The hunt is open only to licensed hunters with approved permits to hunt in one of the designated zones. Only one bear of either sex may be taken by each hunter. All harvested bears must be taken to one of five approved bear-check stations to be recorded and for biological testing.

Information on the numbers of bears harvested will be posted online at NJ.gov/dep/fgw/ as soon as possible after the 7 p.m. closing of the five check stations. On subsequent days, postings will occur by 8 a.m. the following morning.

For information on the 2011 black bear hunt, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/bearseason_info.htm

To review the State's Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/pdf/bear/policy_lit/cbbmp7-10.pdf

For information on the 2010 bear harvest results, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/news/2011/bearseason10_results.htm

For more information on New Jersey's black bears, including tips on avoiding conflicts with bears, visit http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearfacts.htm

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)