New Jersey's black bear hunt gets off to slow start

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NEWTON -

(AP) -- New Jersey's bear hunt continues Tuesday after getting off to a slow start.

Preliminary figures show hunters killed 26 bears on Monday, mainly in Sussex County. That compares to 206 that were killed on the first day of the hunt in 2016.

The six-day hunt started at sunrise Monday in eight counties. The first three days are reserved for bow hunting, while both hunting with bows and muzzle-loading guns will be allowed during the last three days.

State parks and wildlife management areas are open to hunting in Hunterdon, Morris, Sussex and Warren counties, and in areas of Bergen, Mercer, Passaic and Somerset counties.

New Jersey’s black bear hunt has been controversial, with large groups of protesters set up at the weighing stations. Officials said at least two people were arrested Monday amid the protests.

Authorities say a woman was taken into custody after lying down in a roadway to block a hunter's vehicle, and a man was detained after he moved from an area designated for protesters into a roadway. Both were charged with obstructing the administration of law and two other minor charges.

State wildlife officials say the hunts help control the black bear population and minimize run-ins with humans.

“We’ve seen an over 55 percent reduction in harmful bear-human incidents,” said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Robert Geist.

Opponents say the hunts are inhumane and unnecessary.

"The hunts continue, but we want to show that we are in support of stopping it," said Eleanor Hoffman, of Rockaway. "This is a cruel trophy hunt created by hunters for hunters."

The six-day hunt could be one of the last for a while if Phil Murphy, the Democrat running to replace Republican Gov. Chris Christie, wins next month's election.

Murphy reiterated Monday that he would impose a moratorium on the hunts. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the GOP gubernatorial hopeful, said again that she thinks the hunts should continue.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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