N.J. bear hunt gets underway and 4 protestors were arrested

The N.J. bear hunt got off to a contentious start Monday with four protesters arrested, including the college professor who spent 12 days in jail last winter following his 8th civil disobedience-related conviction.

Bill Crain, 74, was taken into custody soon after stepping into the street separating the protesters from the check station in Fredon where, by 1:30 p.m., about a half-dozen hunters had brought dead bears.

Bill Crain, on left, being taken into custody in Fredon, Oct. 8, 2018 (Rob Jennings / NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) 

Crain lives in Poughquag, N.Y., but campaigned for then-candidate for governor Phil Murphy after Murphy, in December 2016, pledged to halt the hunt if elected.

Murphy backed off in August, seven months after becoming governor, issuing an executive order that only stopped the hunt on state land

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s a big disappointment,” Crain, a City College of N.Y. psychology professor, said just before being arrested.

“I feel he should stop the hunt altogether. He has an obligation to do that,” Crain added of Murphy.

Murphy’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

PHOTOS: N.J. bear hunt gets underway amid protest 

Crain and the other three protesters arrested Monday — Danielle Varon, 51, of Vernon; Catherine McCartney, 50, of Highland Lakes; and Lauren Mallon, 28, of Lodi — were all charged with the same three offenses, including obstructing the administration of law, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection said.

The check station in Fredon is one of 5 being used during the hunt, which is taking place in eight northern counties. About 18 law enforcement officers were present on Monday.

Kevin Cole, a hunter whose 11-year-old son killed a bear on private land, was the 4th hunter to arrive in Fredon.

“It needs to be done,” Cole said of the bear hunt.

“Sometimes I go out and I see more bears than I see deer. There’s more out there than they think,” Cole said.

Murphy’s executive order also is drawing criticism from hunters, with three hunting groups seeking to overturn it in court.

About 40 percent of the 3,429 bears killed in the eight hunts under former Gov. Chris Christie were located on state land.

DEP spokesman Brandon Shank acknowledged the strong feelings on both sides.

“Reasonable New Jerseyans can and do disagree about what’s happening here,” Shank said.

Crain’s first six civil disobedience arrests resulted fines, but upon his 7th conviction he was sent to the Sussex County jail for just over a week in January 2017. He spent 12 days in the same jail in January 2018.

“I feel an obligation to put my body out there and say that I oppose this government-endorsed policy,” Crain said Monday.

The first stage of this year’s hunt is scheduled to conclude Saturday, and will resume with another 6 days in December.

Hunters killed 409 bears in 2017, during the last of 8 consecutive hunts under Christie.

Rob Jennings may be reached at rjennings@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook. 

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