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Fewer Permits Issued This Year For N.J. Bear Hunt

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Fewer people have been issued permits for this year's black bear hunt in New Jersey compared with last year.

State fish and wildlife officials said Sunday that 6,445 bear permits out of a maximum of 10,000 permits have been issued this year, a decrease from the 6,700 permits issued last year.

The New Jersey black bear hunting season begins just before dawn on Monday.

The six-day hunt will take place in four designated areas in parts of Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic Bergen, Somerset and Hunterdon counties.

Hunters, who must have permits, are limited to only one bear for the season.

As WCBS 880's Levon Putney reported Saturday, state wildlife officials say it is part of a plan to control the state's black bear population, which grew to about 3,000 in the hunting area in 2012.

"It's part of a five-year plan we have that is aimed at reducing the number of black bears," said state Department of Environmental Protection Larry Ragonese.

Ragonese said numbers showed the hunt has cut the number of run-ins with humans -- "things like home break-ins, car/bear accidents."

But the hunt has drawn a fair number of critics.

"Black bear hunts do nothing to solve any perceived problems with nuisance complaints," said state animal activist Angie Metler.

She said she prefers only bear-proofing measures.

"Keep your trash in bear-resistant containers; maybe not have a bird feeder," Metler said.

She also advised cleaning the barbecue grill.

Ragonese said the Department of Environmental Protection teaches people in bear country to take all those measures, but the department also has to manage the population.

A total of 285 bears were killed during the six-day hunt last year – most of them in Sussex County, state officials said.
The hunt in 2011 yielded 469 kills, while the 2010 hunt ended with 592 bears killed.

The hunt always draws protesters opposed to the practice, with many complaining that the state is sponsoring what they call a recreational trophy hunt.

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