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Controversial firearms-only hunt in New Jersey bags record 607 bears so far

TRENTON, N.J. - Hunters have killed a record 607 bears in New Jersey.

The number was reached Tuesday when hunters bagged 18 bruins during the second day of the second part of this year’s hunt. The previous record was 592 bears killed in 2010.

The firearms-only New Jersey bear hunt, which began Monday, followed October’s six-day hunt, which was limited to bows and arrows and muzzle-loading guns. In October, hunters killed 562 bears.

The hunt is scheduled to last through Saturday, but officials say it will be suspended once the cumulative harvest rate of tagged bears reaches 30 percent. The season total is currently 24 percent.

Animal rights’ groups and lawmakers say the hunt causes more problems and is “inhumane.”

Opponents are rallying behind the apparent death of Pedals, a bipedal bear and internet celebrity believed to be killed in October’s hunt.

Pedals walked upright like a human and was seen in numerous videos, becoming a celebrity. 

"Pedals" the walking bear returns

“This is nothing more than a slaughter, an unnecessary slaughter, of a beautiful animal,” Sen. Ray Lesniak, who sponsored Pedals’ Law which would ban bear hunts altogether in the Garden State, CBS New York reported. The law would also call for non-lethal means to control the population, including birth control and distribution of bear-resistant containers.

Pedals first surfaced about two years ago in Jefferson Township. The bear walked with an unusual gait on its hind legs and was spotted ambling around neighborhoods. It appeared in videos posted online and shown on national television. 

The New Jersey Herald reports that roughly two dozen people gathered early Monday at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Fredon to peacefully show their opposition to the hunt. Officials said no arrests had been reported. 

Some protesters yelled “stop the killing” and “murderers” while another read what was intended as a eulogy for a killed bear as the first few hunters carried their kills to the check-in station at the wildlife area.

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