NEWTON - New Jersey's controversial bear hunt began just before sunrise this morning.

The Department of Environmental Protection has set up checkpoints for hunters to bring their kills to be catalogued by age and size.

Hunter Vinny Mercurio says he spent eight weeks using bait and video cameras to track the bear he brought in today. He says he and his family are going to eat the bear's meat, and then he's going to turn the animal's skin into a rug.

The hunt is part of a five-year management plan for the bear population, but protesters say hunting will do little to keep the population in check.

The DEP says it believes the bear hunt is working, and it reports a 45 percent decrease in bear encounters. Nuisance reports are also down 20 percent.

Six bears came in today, but the state expects about 300 by the end of the week. The hunt will continue until Saturday.