|Bear brought in by hunter at the DEP bear hunt weigh station in Franklin.|
New Jersey's annual six-day bear hunt ended at sunset today. Though final numbers are not available yet, 228 bears were killed as of Thursday. Most of the bears taken were in Sussex County as the hunt was conducted in an area west of Route 287 and north off Route 80.
The hunt is the state's method to control the black bear population which is now estimated at about 2,900 in the hunting area.
Environmental Protection Department biologists expect a harvest similar to last year's, when 469 bears were killed.
According to NJ.com, the hunt is here to stay.
Although the number of bears in northwestern New Jersey have been thinned over three consecutive state-sponsored hunts, those numbers still need to be cut in half, the director of the state Division of Fish and Wildlife said today.
"We still have a ways to go," David Chanda, the division’s director, said hours before this year’s six-day hunt ended today. "We have more black bear per square mile than anywhere else in North America."
Those opposed to the hunts, who took their challenge to the state Supreme Court before it was thrown out in April, said they are shocked at the prospect of cutting the bear population in half.
"That’s ridiculous," said Doris Lin, an attorney for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and the Bear Education and Resource group. "They just keep changing the goal to keep having these recreational hunts."
The bear population in northwestern New Jersey stood at 3,400 in the months before the first hunt in 2010. Before this year’s hunt began, the number of bears had dropped to between 2,800 and 3,000, state officials said.
A "more reasonable" number is between 1,200 to 1,500, Chanda said.
Dozens of people from animal-rights groups used bullhorns to voice their outrage today outside the Whittingham Fish and Wildlife Management Area check station in Fredon. The protesters are also supporting a bill by State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) that would ban baiting bears with food and require certain residences in core bear habitat to use bear-resistant garbage containers.