NEWTON - For the first time in nearly 40 years, bow-hunting is being allowed for New Jersey’s annual black bear hunt.
The annual hunt got underway Monday morning. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife says they have seen many requests to allow bow-and-arrow hunting in New Jersey.
"You've got to the ability to silently be able to take a bear without scaring or doing all the other problems you may have,” DEP spokesman Robert Geist says.
For the first half of the six-day hunt, it will be bow-hunting only. Then muzzle-loading guns will be permitted.
"It's part of our comprehensive bear management plan where we effectively, scientifically and humanely look to reduce bear-human interactions and other negative consequences of having bears in such a densely populated state like New Jersey,” says Geist.
The bear hunt has not been without controversy. Each time a hunter brought a bear in to the weighing station, dozens of protesters yelled and chanted to display their disgust with the hunt.
"It's an extremely high wounding rate, over 50 percent,” says Cathy McCartney who is against the hunt. “So basically for every bear that they drag out of the woods, there's another one that's going to be suffering for days or even weeks before it dies."
Several protesters were arrested for breaking out of the designated protest zone and refusing to go back.
State officials say the hunt’s goal is to get 20 percent of the tagged bears. If more than 30 percent are hunted, the hunt will stop.
According to the DEP 146 bears were killed on the first day of the hunt.
Another bear hunt is scheduled for December.