Jersey Hunters Snag 124 Bears

Including a giant 693-pounder.

On the very first day of New Jersey’s annual bear hunt, hunters snagged 124 black bears — including one giant 693-pounder. The biggest bear ever killed during the hunt was 829 pounds, in 2011.

Officials say the hunt is needed to curtail the state’s bear population and reduce the chance of bad encounters between bears and humans the rest of the year, but environmentalists aren’t convinced. The black bear is shy and avoids conflict and contact with humans.

“These hunts tend to be in the middle of the forest away from the population,” said Jeff Tittel, the New Jersey director of the Sierra Club. “So you’re not going after the nuisance or aggressive bears, you’re just going after the more docile bears in the woods.”

The hunt comes, however, just a few months after the mauling of a 22-year-old Rutgers student, Darsh Patel.

“Animal rights activists have been calling bears ‘the dolphins of the forest’ … but things like this can happen,” said Anthony Mauro, chairman of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.

[NJDEPAP | WFMZ | Reuters]