Protestors greet hunters as bear hunt gets underway in NJ

Author: , Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published: Dec 02 2012 07:00:00 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 03 2012 07:20:10 PM EST

Bad news for bears.

It's bear season in New Jersey.

Wildlife officials hope the hunt will help them manage the bear population.

But day one was met with some controversy.

Hunters are greeted by anger on the first day of New Jersey's bear hunting season.

"The goal is to allow them to participate in a democracy," said NJDEP Spokesman Larry Ragonese.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection officials say the six day hunt is part of a five year program to bring the black bear population in the Northwestern portion of the state within manageable levels.

New Jersey State police stand by to make sure the protestors and the hunters get to exercise their constitutional rights.

As one by one the bears are brought in, biologists weigh them, check their health and look for tags.

Last year, 9,000 permits were sold and 469 bears were harvested. Fish and Wildlife officials say 20 percent of those bears were nuisance bears.

"Which include bears entering homes entering campsites, killing pets and livestock," said Ragonese.

But the protestors say the hunt is cruel and unsportsmanlike since Hunters are allowed to use bait.

But Hunter William Leahy says he didn't take that route.

Leahy says he got up early and waited for this 196 pound female to cross his path.

"We will give some of the meat to the homeless people the shelter and then we will use some of the meat ourselves," said Leahy.

The hunt lasts through December 8th.

NJDEP officials say when it's over they'll have a better idea of the health of the state's black bear herd and whether efforts to manage them are working.