‘This is more of the same politicking’: New Jersey's annual bear hunt begins

New Jersey's annual bear hunt begins this morning, and it could be the last. Gov. Phil Murphy has said this year could be the last for the bear hunt, which the governor pledged to end when he ran for governor in 2017.
“That promotes public safety and welfare, while protecting important wildlife with a focus on non-lethal management techniques,” says Gov. Murphy.
The hunt starts at sunrise, and is different from what has been seen in years’ past. State-run check stations, where hunters brought their bears, will be closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and hunters will have to call a phone number to get instructions. People in support of the hunt say with a rising bear population, it is very much needed.
"Along with our stated position on the bear code policy which is badly needed and scientifically sound effort to manage bears in New Jersey, this is more of the same politicking we've seen from the governor on this issue," says Cody McLaughlin, with the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.
The first three days of the six-day hunt is restricted to hunters using archery. Beginning Thursday, they can use archery and muzzleloading rifles. The second segment of the hunt, for firearms only, is scheduled to begin Dec. 7.
The bear hunt will take place in five designated zones covering parts of seven different counties, including Warren, Morris, Bergen, Passaic, Hunterdon, Somerset and Mercer. 
Hunters bagged 315 bears during the 2019 hunt. Most were killed in Sussex County.
Gov. Murphy says the Fish and Game Council will move to focus on something that doesn't kill the bears.
AP wire services helped contribute to this report.