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Protesters Call On New Jersey To Scrap Bear Hunt

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Animal rights advocates with doughnuts in tow rallied in Trenton Thursday to call on New Jersey to ban hunters from baiting bears and to bash Gov. Chris Christie for allowing the hunt.

The protest at the State House came days before the state's fifth consecutive annual black bear hunt, which is scheduled to run from Dec. 8-13.

State officials say the hunt is necessary to reduce the bear population in northern New Jersey, which supporters say will lead to fewer encounters with people and lessen the chance of an attack like the one that killed a Rutgers student in September.

Protesters Call On New Jersey To Scrap Bear Hunt

Animal rights activists have been particularly upset with Christie lately in light of his veto last week of a bill that would have banned the use of pig gestation crates.

Kathy McGuire, founder of the Winslow Township-based NJ Aid for Animals, said she voted for Christie but would not support him if he runs for president because of the decisions.

Advocates brought vegan doughnuts to jokingly attract Christie to meet with them, although the Republican governor was in Canada. They said hunters use doughnuts -- sometimes hundreds of pounds of them -- to attract bears as part of their hunts.

"He made it easy for cowardly hunters to blast these bears as easily as possible,'' said Edita Birnkrant, campaign director for New York-based Friends of Animals, referring to Christie.

"We are appalled and disgusted," Birnkrant told WCBS 880's Levon Putney.

Christie's spokesman would not comment on the protest.

Angi Metler, executive director of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, said baiting is inhumane and counterproductive because it changes the animals' natural foraging patterns and attracts them to other human food supplies.

She and others at the rally called on lawmakers to support a bill that would ban baiting and require other "bear smart'' measures, such as bans on birdseed in areas populated by bears and bear-proof trash containers.

"We have to learn as a society how to coexist," Birnkrant said. "We need to learn how to live with them."

She also said bears with so much food access are more likely to breed and increase the bear population.

A bear fatally mauled 22-year-old hiker Darsh Patel in the Asphawa Preserve in September. The death has been used to justify the hunt but also by anti-hunting groups to call for more education of the public, including hikers, on what to do when they encounter a bear.

"Enough is enough," Birnkrant said. "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."

Patel had taken photos of the animal before the mauling.

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