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New Jersey bear hunt begins amid protests

By Jamie Stover, Reporter, JStover@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 09 2013 05:50:19 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 10 2013 01:54:56 PM CST

Protestors greet bear hunters in New Jersey

OXFORD, N.J. -

New Jersey's week-long black bear hunt is underway, and it's bringing out hunters and protesters.

Monday opened the season, allowing 7,000 hunters to track and kill black bears in portions of seven Garden State counties.

"I hunted bear in New Jersey last year and the year before," said Jeffrey Guiliano, a hunter.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection argues the hunt drastically reduces black bear-human encounters.

"The number of encounters are dropping pretty dramatically. We have had a 43 percent decrease in category one encounters, which includes bears entering homes and camps," said Larry Ragonese, press director for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

But protesters don't buy that.

"Complaints rose and fell in the 1990s when no bear hunting occurred," said Angi Metler, with the Bear Education Resource Program.

Metler said New Jersey needs a better and non-lethal management plan.   

"We are trying to encourage people to become bear-smart.  Take simple steps to contain garbage and contents around your home.  That is the number one solution," Metler said

Some protesters claimed the bears that hunters are targeting aren't the bears causing problems, but some hunters disagree.

"Bears should be hibernating this time of year. The bears that aren't hibernating could be the problem," Guiliano said.

The state expects a total harvest of nearly 300 black bears this season, while groups like the Sierra Club worry annual hunts could eventually put black bears at risk of a complete wipe out in the state.