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200 Bears Killed On 1st Day Of Controversial NJ Bear Hunt

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Black Bear (file / credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Black Bear (file / credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Wildlife officials estimate that 200 bears were killed Monday on the first day of the state’s black bear hunt.

The state says it has to reduce the black bear population in because there are too many bear-human encounters.  However, opponents argue it’s about trophies, rugs and politics, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.

Animal activists opposed to New Jersey’s black bear are being allowed to protest at certain bear check stations during the six-day hunt. A ruling in state superior court ruled Monday says up to 25 people can demonstrate at the Franklin bear check station in Sussex County between noon and 4 p.m. each day.

One protester crossed permit boundaries and was arrested at the weigh station in Franklin.  Despite the protests, hunters dismissed the criticism.

1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg with Hunters and Protesters

“These people are out of touch, there’s too many bears in this area,” hunter Bruce Levendusky told Sloan.

A greater number were being allowed to demonstrate at two other weigh stations. Critics of the hunt had been pushing for the Franklin station permit as it is a high-visibility site.

Environmental Protection Department officials felt it was too a dangerous a spot for a large gathering.

Hunters took to the woods at the crack of dawn today, hoping to bag a black bear. A hunter brought the first bear into the Franklin Borough weigh station about 9:30 a.m., as well as a cub weighing 78 pounds, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported.

Officials hope that the six day hunt will reduce the population of black bears, which is estimated at 3,400. The growing population is increasingly encountering humans, wildlife officials said.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams: Even A Dead Bear Is Intimidating

“The hunt is nothing but a trophy hunt for hunters to bring home rugs, mounts and wall trophies. That’s the only thing this hunt is,” said Angie Metler of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey.

“They’re in my backyard a lot, and I have a young daughter, always aware of her being out there with the bear,” said hunter Fred Hasert.

Nearly 600 bears were killed in last year’s hunt.

Do you support the hunt or oppose it? Sound off in our comments section below.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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