NEWTON - The 2015 bear hunting season opened Monday in New Jersey.
Around 8,200 bear permits were issued on the first day of the bear hunt, which is much more than last year.
By sundown of the first day of the hunt, hunters bagged over 120 bears. Experts expect that number to increase as the six-day hunt goes forward, especially since the warmer weather has kept the bears active and visible.
Protesters gathered at many of the Department of Environmental Protection checkpoints to express their disapproval of the hunt.
At one DEP checkpoint in Newton, protesters were heard calling the hunters murderers and yelling at them.
Mark Worobetz, of Fredon Township, says that he is protesting the hunt not because he is against hunting, but because he doesn't believe the Department of Environmental Protection’s rationale that the bears pose a danger.
“I do see them, particularly mountain biking once in a while,” he says. “One wanders through the neighborhood. We were at a picnic and one came through. We scattered. It didn't really care."
However, wildlife officials say that the hunt is necessary because the bear population is too high and the animals have become too accustomed to humans.
"We have some of the most dense population of black bears in the country,” says Carole Stanko, with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. “We are also the most densely populated state so that leads to a lot of bear-human contacts."
Hunter John DeFilipp says that the hunt is more about managing the population and protecting his family. He says he won’t kill bear cubs and the bears he does kill will be brought to a butcher and eaten.
The DEP hopes the hunt will bring the bear population down by 20 percent. The agency also has the authority to extend the hunt if the goal is not met.
Another hunt, which includes bow hunting, will take place in October.