New Jersey bear hunt draws protesters 'willing to get arrested'
Opponents of a bear hunt in New Jersey vowed to protest at a major carcass-weighing station after losing their bid to block the hunt, which began Monday and which wildlife officials say is needed to control the state's burgeoning bear population.
After a court refused its attempt to block the six-day hunt, the Animal Protection League of New Jersey requested permission to protest at the weighing station in Franklin, N.J., because of its high visibility to passing motorists and the large number of hunters who take their kills there.
That request was turned down, but Doris Lin, an attorney representing the League, said protesters would go there anyway. "People are willing to get arrested to protest against this denial of their speech rights," Lin said, according to The Record newspaper.
The state's Department of Environmental Protection estimates that there are about 3,400 black bears in New Jersey. Last year's hunt killed 592 of the animals.
The species came close to extinction in the state due to uncontrolled hunting but its population soared after hunts were banned in 1970. Confrontations between bears and people prompted the state to approve a bear hunt in 2003. Hunts also were held in 2005 and 2010.
The state's wildlife officials require hunters to purchase permits to take part in the bear hunt and restricts them to one bear each. They had offered protesters permits to demonstrate at other bear-weighing stations, but those were not as well-traveled as the one in Franklin.
-- Tina Susman in New York
Photo: A 651-pound black bear shot during last year's bear hunt is weighed in Fredon, N.J.. Credit: Mel Evans / Associated Press