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New Jersey bear hunt returns despite efforts by animal rights groups to ban it

<i>WABC</i><br/>New Jersey's first bear hunt in two years resumed Wednesday
New Jersey's first bear hunt in two years resumed Wednesday

By Toni Yates

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    NEWTON, New Jersey (WABC) — New Jersey’s first bear hunt in two years resumed Wednesday, despite efforts by animal rights groups to convince the courts to block its return.

The decision also marked a change of heart by Governor Phil Murphy, who was convinced by wildlife officials to bring back the hunt as increased sightings and encounters with bears in the state put the public at risk.

Within hours of the court ordered stay being lifted Tuesday, word went out to permitted hunters, 6,268 of them, that the hunt was on.

“We had one successful hunter yesterday check a bear,” said Dave Golden, Assistant Commissioner of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife.

The stay, successfully but temporarily won by Animal Rights groups, delayed the hunt for one day. On Wednesday, check stations were open.

All culled bears must now be brought to one of the five stations to be weighed. The Department of Environmental Protection is taking specific data on the animals.

“We tag nuisance bears, we know based on the bears being brought to the check stations that some of the bears being taken in to harvest are nuisance bears,” Golden said.

The DEP is trying to reduce the black bear population by 20% in the state.

The Murphy administration agreed to reinstitute the hunt in an emergency order as bear encounters with humans and pets rise.

The DEP says encounters have risen by 230% from last year to this year.

The hunt has sparked so much controversy that one hunter agreed to let cameras record the weigh in, but chose not to speak or be seen.

The hunt is scheduled to be on until December 10, unless not enough bears are culled.

“So, if we don’t reach a target of 20% harvest rate, then the hunt will be extended for four additional days,” Golden said.

In past years, before Governor Murphy ended the hunt, animal rights groups flocked to a Sussex County checkpoint to protest the hunt.

None were here on Wednesday but are continuing their fight in the courts to still try to end this year’s hunt.

It’s already approved for next year as well.

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