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New Jersey bear hunt begins
BY JOHN CURRAN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

VERNON (AP) --A bear hunt aimed at thinning New Jersey's burgeoning black bear population got under way at daybreak today, with hunters venturing out in freezing temperatures to try their luck -- and opponents turning out to denounce them.

The six-day season is expected to lure about 5,000 hunters to New Jersey's rural northwestern counties. Animal rights groups had unsuccessfully challenged plans for the hunt, approved by the state because of increasing numbers of bear sightings and complaints.

Rich Cutting, 41, took the week off from work in hopes of bagging his first bear in a lifetime of hunting.

"I'm hoping to get lucky. Hopefully, it won't take all week," said Cutting, who bundled up in two sets of thermal underwear and set off in Wawayanda State Park at about 5:40 a.m., a 12-gauge shotgun in hand.

The first kill arrived at a weigh station in Wawayanda at about 9:25 a.m. in a pickup truck. The driver trucked it into a restricted area and loaded it into a building to be tallied by a state wildlife biologist, shielded from news cameras by a blue tarp hung by park officials to protect hunters' privacy.

The hunt is restricted to an area of about 1,600 square miles in the state's northwest corner, with hunters required to use shotguns or old-fashioned muzzle-loading rifles.

The state's last bear hunt was in 2003, when 328 were killed. That was the first bear season since 1970, when hunts were suspended because the black bear population had dropped to about 100 animals.

Today, the population is estimated at 1,600 to 3,200, and the loss of habitat to development is forcing many of the animals to seek food in populated areas.

Animal welfare groups say the hunt is cruel and unnecessary, but their legal arguments were rejected in two courts Friday. This morning, about a dozen -- clad in bright orange "Bear Rescue Team" T-shirts -- gathered at the weighing station to denounce the hunt.

About 50 people were participating, fanning out into the woods to search for wounded bears and photograph and document what they saw, according to Lynda Smith, president of BEAR, which stands for Bear Education and Research.

"It's a slaughter of innocent black bears," said Ken Vassilatos, 47, of Pine Bush, N.Y., who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the image of a cub and a female bear, both with tears in their eyes.

Hunt opponent Ann Ilkiw planned to accompany Vassilatos into the woods to help the animals.

"We'll carry them out if we have to. We'll take pictures and make sure people see the horror of it," Ilkiw said.

The bear hunt critics plan a formal protest Saturday, but they had no permit for one Monday, so state park police Lt. Kelly Gottheiner told them to put the signs -- which read "Stop the Innocent Bear Slaughter" and "Sportsmen?? Cub Killers!" -- away.

The opponents complied, but then complained about a sign on a hunter's truck that read "Support the Bear Hunt" and pulled it off the vehicle.

Hunters and the state say the hunt -- which coincides with white-tailed deer season -- is necessary, given the bears' increasing incursions into backyards and trash cans.

Last July, a 142-pound female bear bit the leg of a sleeping camper at High Point State Park in northwestern New Jersey. The camper's injuries were minor. The bear was shot by a state biologist.

A month earlier in Egg Harbor City, near Atlantic City in southern New Jersey, a 150-pound bruin rummaged through garbage cans, ate from bird feeders and jumped a fence a block from an elementary school during a weeklong stay.

"We'll carry them out if we have to. We'll take pictures and make sure people see the horror of it," Ilkiw said.
This is the best I would like to see this. Crazy people. They are breaking laws all over the place Ripping bumper stickers off trucks (Defacing private property) They should all be arrested.
 

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What kind of logic is that? Who would go in the woods and carry out wounded bears? I hope for our sake they don't get in anyone's way or find any bears...but if they do odds are they'll be the next bear attack victims. I doubt a hurt bear would be in good spirits.
 

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They are insanneee. Lets approach wounded bears! what a great idea! Trying to screw with an injured black bear. This is going to be an interesting week ladies and gentlemen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I just don't understand why our CO's don't step in and stop them from doing this. There has to be some kind of laws against it.
 

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I doubt they will even attempt it.

They spent all the donor money getting the shirts made and the coffee and doughnuts.

The only thing they are willing to confront is a news-camera.
 

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There is a Law, Malicious Damage (Disorderly person/s). They can be arrested! CO's aren't doing their Jobs. If they did that in the Town I patrol they would be in cuffs. Especially if they are damaging others property.
 

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I am still thinking about calling Stuies bear rescue hotline with bogus wounded bear reports.
If ANY phone calls are made to that line it will be in all the papers. I can see the headlines next year, "We had numerous phone calls from the bear hunt, there was wounded bears everywhere".

They will use it just like they used the cub that was hit by the car last year on rt 23.

The phone line and the T-Shirts are attention getting propaganda. Lets not fall into it.

The best thing we can do is leave the headlines to the Fish and Game people and thank them in the end for the work they put into this for us all.
 
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