WANAQUE, N.J. (CBS 2/ 1010 WINS/ WCBS 880) — A lawsuit to stop New Jersey’s bear hunt has failed, paving the way for the state’s first hunt since 2005.
With an increasing number of bear encounters and complaints state officials say the goal is to kill 300 to 700 bears during the hunt, which runs from Monday through Dec. 11.
But as CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reports, not everyone in bear country is supporting the hunt.
Black bears will be in the cross-hairs come Monday, when hunters will descend upon seven counties to kill them.
They’ll be firing their shotguns in the woods, some 400 feet away from Kirsten Denuto’s home. She said she worries one of her dogs will be mistaken for a bear.
“I guess I will have to put a red bandana around him,” Denuto said.
Her neighbor, Sue Kehoe, is a bear activist who said she sees bears the way she recently captured one on video in her backyard — as cute and playful, trying to live in their natural habitat.
“This hunt is not about safety. It’s not about population. It’s about trophies rugs and wall mounts,” Kehoe said.
But at a Wanaque gun shop people buying ammunition for the bear hunt said these creatures are becoming more dangerous and getting too close to homes.
“Four o’clock in the morning had a bear rip my shed apart and try to drag my deer out,” hunter A.J. Corter told Sloan.
People who live in bear country told Sloan the key to keeping bears out of their backyards is to not leave food out and to use secure trash cans bears can’t open.
“When the Division of Fish and Wildlife says that the bear hunt is one component it’s the only component because they have no money for non-lethal and non-lethal is the only thing that works,” said Angie Metler of the Animal Protection League of N.J.
In Trenton, protestors made a last ditch effort to stop the hunt. Dozens of animal rights activists took to the State House steps Friday in an effort to get Gov. Chris Christie to stop the bear hunt.
“Governor Christie by executive order could — Sunday night, Monday morning — could cancel this, and that’s what we’re asking him to do,” one woman at the rally told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
The state argues that the growing bear population puts people in danger, but activists disagree with the assessment.
WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports
“People should be educated, don’t leave garbage out, don’t leave food out,” another activist said. “Bears are actually very shy — there’s no need to hunt them, there’s no need to kill them.”
Safety is also a huge concern. Timmy Peschl told Sloan licensed hunters put residents first.
“A lot of people don’t realize one of the number one things in hunting is safety,” Peschl said.
Still, the bear divide is evident here in bear country.
More than 290 bears were killed in the 2005 hunt. Bear activists said they’ll be protesting at stations where dead bears will be taken.