More bears were killed on the first day of the annual hunt than on opening day in 2017, despite Gov. Phil Murphy’s ban on using state land.
A total of 36 bears were brought to check stations on Monday, slightly up from 34 on the hunt’s first day in 2017, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Four bear hunt opponents were arrested Monday during a protest outside a state check station in Fredon.
Monday’s total may yet rise, as sometimes hunters wait until the following day to bring in a bear killed after sundown. DEP, at the end of the hunt’s first day in 2017, initially counted only 26 bears.
Officials in 2017 attributed the low total on opening day, in prior years the busiest day of the hunt, on unusually rainy and warm weather. The total rose to 62 on the second day, en route to 409 bears killed over 16 days — six days in October and another 10 in December.
Conditions on Monday were not that removed from last year. There was a slight rain falling part of the day and it was again unseasonably warm.
This year’s opening day numbers note the counties where the bears were killed, but not other details such as whether they were found on private land or in a county park.
About 40 percent of the 3,429 bears killed in the eight hunts under former Gov. Chris Christie were located on state land.
Murphy, while running for governor in December 2016, had said he would halt the hunt if elected. He backed off in August, seven months after becoming governor, issuing an executive order that only stopped the hunt on state land.
While hunt opponents say that Murphy’s executive order didn’t go far enough, it also has upset hunters, and is being challenged by three pro-hunting groups in state court.
N.J. resumed bear hunting in 2003, after a moratorium of more than three decades, and the issue remains contentious.
The four bear hunt protesters arrested Monday included City College of New York psychology professor Bill Crain.
Crain, 74, spent 12 days in jail in January following his 8th civil disobedience-related conviction since 2005 incurred while protesting the hunt.
Crain lives in Poughquag, New York, but had campaigned for Murphy after Murphy said he would stop the hunt.
The 2018 hunt continues through Saturday and will resume for a second, six-day segment in December.