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New Jersey's Bear Hunt Begins

FREDON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Hunters were greeted with clear, crisp weather on the first day of New Jersey's six-day bear hunt.

The last of five state-sponsored bear hunts aimed at reducing the bruin population and increasing public safety began 30 minutes before sunrise Monday and will continue through Saturday.

Environmental Protection Department spokesman Larry Ragonese says Marc Beardslee, of Vernon, bagged the first bruin, a female.

New Jersey's Bear Hunt Begins

Beardslee said he sat in the woods and didn't even have to open his Thermos of coffee before he was able to kill the 135-pound black bear.

"I waited for a nice, clean, ethical shot," he told 1010 WINS' Rebecca Granet. "Plenty of light out, and I took it."

Beardslee brought the bear to a state science station to get weighed, where protesters stood across the street chanting "stop bear hating!"

Bear Hunt Protest
Opponents of New Jersey's bear hunts hold a protest Dec. 8, 2014. (credit: Rebecca Granet/1010 WINS)

"We know that this hunt is nothing more than a trophy," protester Angie Metler said.

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said the hunt is necessary "to reduce the number of bears to a more manageable level so that people can coexist with them."

But wildlife officials and activists disagree over whether the hunts have achieved their goals or are the right method for protecting people.

"Enough is enough," Edita Birnkrant, campaign director for New York-based Friends of Animals, told WCBS 880's Levon Putney last week. "It's their planet, too. We cannot go on living as if human beings are the only species on Earth that matters and for bears that dare to live in bear country they all should be slaughtered. That's an insane attitude."

In September, a Rutgers University student was mauled to death by a bear in West Milford after he snapped some cellphone pictures of it.

The number of bears killed in the hunt has dropped from nearly 600 in 2010 to about 250 last year.

The overall number of bears in the northern portion of the state is estimated to have dropped by more than a quarter since the hunt began. But reports of aggressive bears have risen this year.

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