280 Bears Killed as N.J. Hunt Ends

About 280 bears were killed in New Jersey's six-day hunt aimed at thinning out the burgeoning population, which ended with more than 100 protesters waiting for hunters to emerge from the woods with their kills.

The hunt ended shortly after dusk Saturday with fewer bears killed than the 328 bagged in 2003, according to preliminary figures.

Black bears, once near extinction in the state, are now a common sight, menacing people, scampering through yards and rummaging in trash.

"I believe we'll now see a reduction in nuisance complaints, a reduction in serious complaints and that we'll get more information about these bears because of this," said Martin McHugh, director of the state's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

He would not say whether he expected another hunt next year but noted the state's black bear management plan recommends hunts in 2006 or 2007.

"There are no alternatives to manage the bear population next to a hunt," McHugh said.

More than 100 protesters, chanting and waving signs that read "I'd take a bullet for a bear," gathered at Wawayanda State Park in Vernon, where hunters brought their dead bears to be weighed and inspected.

Six were arrested, apparently for moving outside the permitted protest area.

"This is strictly a trophy hunt," said Lynda Smith, director of the West Milford-based Bear Education and Resource Group, who was among those arrested.