Video: Bear hunts in New Jersey

updated 12/10/2003 4:52:25 PM ET 2003-12-10T21:52:25

New Jersey opened its first bear hunt in 33 years Monday with hunters trekking into snow-filled woods before dawn as animal rights activists protested nearby. Hunters’ trucks and sport utility vehicles lined entrance roads to Wawayanda State Park, where hunters were allowed to go out a half-hour before sunrise.

A dozen protesters at the park carried signs reading, “No bear slaughter in my state” and “Act now, Governor. Protect citizens and wildlife.”

The six-day hunt was authorized to thin New Jersey’s swelling black bear population, estimated by state wildlife officials to be as high as 3,200.

The state opened up 1 million acres in northern New Jersey to hunters and issued just over 5,200 bear permits.

Alternative to hunting
Wearing a bear mask, Janice Wrubel of Nutley said the state has not aggressively pursued alternatives to the hunt, including sterilization.

About 200 animal advocates, some armed with video recorders, went into the woods to make sure hunters stayed clear of dens and other areas where hunting was forbidden, said Lynda Smith, director of the Bear Education and Resource Group, which has tried to teach residents how to live with bears.

“I fought against this day for 10 years,” Smith said. “One week of bear hunting, nothing’s going to be solved. Come spring the bears will still be eating our garbage and still be walking through our back yards.”

Judge steps in
On Friday, a federal judge put a crimp the state’s plans, temporarily closing the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to hunters. The federal land constitutes up to 25 percent of the area designated for the hunt, according to a lawyer representing New Jersey’s Fish and Game Council.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said he would decide Tuesday whether to extend the restraining order through the six-day hunt.

The storm that left more than a foot of snow in the area could also drive bears into their dens, where they will be off limits.

“With a heavy snow like this, they may not even come out,” said Joe Sampogna, who has hunted since 1975. “They may just stay in their dens.”

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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