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Over 200 Bears Killed On First Day Of NJ Hunt [AUDIO]

Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media

Wildlife officials say over 200 bears have been killed on the first day of New Jersey’s weeklong black bear hunt.

The first bear taken was a 166-pound female shot in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area by Robert Melber of Apache Junction, Arizona. The second was a 205-pound male taken in Independence, Warren County, by two teenagers from Wayne, Jimmy Colazzo and K.C. Abel.

“It was really exciting, it was my first shot about a half hour into the hunt and three bears just ran past me…so I shot the biggest one” said Melber.”

Colazzo and Abel are friends and lifelong hunters. The pair said they shot their bear at literally the same time. “We had been baiting all weeklong and we saw the big one coming at us from about 20 yards away so we did a countdown and shot it at the same time.”

“It is something we will never forget for the rest of our lives I’m sure,” said 15 year-old Colazzo.

Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media

The hunt is being held to reduce an overpopulation of black bears in the northwestern part of New Jersey. This area has experienced a rising number of public complaints in recent years due to bear-human encounters.

But opponents argue that it is a crime against nature and the state’s bear management policy is flawed.

“It is a trophy hunt. This hunt has nothing to do with managing the bear population it is all about sport. New Jersey needs to have a comprehensive Management Plan that deals with garbage, education, and habitat. That is really the only way you can deal with bears in New Jersey,” Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club.

New Jersey Sierra Club believes just as we did with the first hunt last year that the hunt is unwarranted, unfounded, and will not help to mange bears in the state of New Jersey. This is a recreational hunt that will lead to a large loss of the New Jersey black bear population, but will not do anything to deal with nuisance bears.

DEP biologists predict a harvest similar to 2010, when 592 bears were harvested.

Bear hunting is taking place in portions of a 1,000-square-mile area north of Route 78 and West of Route 287. This area is divided into four Bear Management Zones, including portions of Bergen, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties, which are home to the majority of the state’s black bears.

The hunt is open only to licensed hunters with approved permits to hunt in one of the designated zones. Only one bear of either sex may be taken by each hunter. All harvested bears must be taken to one of five approved bear-check stations to be recorded and for biological testing.

Animal rights groups spent the day in court and were granted permission to demonstrate at various bear check stations — one protester was arrested so far at the Sussex County station in Franklin.

Animal rights activists say they will continue to protest every day for the remainder of the hunt.

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