TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey’s black bear hunting season officially began Monday and with it came hunters and protesters.
The six-day hunt takes place in four designated areas in parts of Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic, Bergen, Somerset and Hunterdon counties.
The first black bear, weighing in at 286 pounds, was killed at 7:30 a.m. in Andover. Hunters, who must have permits, are limited to only one bear for the season.
This is the fourth consecutive state-sanctioned bear hunt. State wildlife officials say it is part of a five-year plan to control the state’s black bear population, which grew to about 3,000 in the hunting area in 2012.
“The number of animals we have in this area of the state still exceeds the density of anywhere in North America, ” David Chanda with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection told CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes. “Couple that with more people per square mile and it’s going to be a problem.”
About two dozen people protested against the hunt in Newtown on Monday.
Opponents believe the hunt does nothing to help solve the bear problem.
“The only solution is becoming bear smart,” said Angi Metler with the Bear Education Research Program. “Which means containing your attractants, bringing in the bird feeders, dealing with grills.”
But state officials say the comprehensive approach, which includes public education and a bear-feeding ban, is working.
The DEP says reported black bear sightings in northwestern New Jersey are down 21 percent this year. Damage and nuisance complaints are down 20 percent and dangerous bear incidents are down by 3 percent through October.
Fewer permits have been issued this year. State fish and wildlife officials say 6,445 bear permits out of a maximum of 10,000 permits have been issued for this hunt. That’s a decrease from the 6,700 permits issued last year.
DEP biologists expect this year’s hunt to harvest about 290 bears depending on the weather, similar to last year. This year’s hunt runs from Dec. 9 through Dec. 14.
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