According to this story on, hunters took to the Garden State’s first bear season in five years with gusto, already tagging 441 black bears–a number that will likely swell with the hunt continuing through Saturday. That doesn’t mean the hunt didn’t draw its share of heat from animal-rights activists.

_New Jersey’s first bear hunt in five years is likely to run its scheduled course through Saturday, according to DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese. That outcome is likely with the updated count of dead bears through the first three days.
_While hunters have now bagged 441 bears — a record, Ragonese said the goal is “an expected range of 500 to 700.”

A record haul on Monday dropped by half on Tuesday, and the 55 bears bagged on Wednesday was more than half the previous day’s count.

“We expected a much lesser number during the week as the number of hunters (going out) dropped,” said Ragonese.

Bear advocates have been protesting every day of the hunt, and had hopes the DEP and Go. Chris Christie would stop it after the 500 mark was reached.

That now seems unlikely.

“Unless something dramatic occurred, the hunt will continue through Saturday,” Ragonese said.

Animal-rights groups have questioned the science used by the DEP’s Fish and Wildlife Division, as did former DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello earlier this week in an exclusive interview with NBCNewYork.

“The black bear is still recovering from its last bout of the Division’s so-called ‘sound’ scientific management – read hunting – that left this remarkable species on the brink of extinction in New Jersey in 1970,” said Susan Russell, a wildlife and political consultant to the Animal Protection League and the Bear Group.

Bear advocates also claim that a key Fish and Wildlife official attended a campaign rally for Christie sponsored by a political action committee in support of the hunt.

DEP has maintained that its science follows more than a decade of research into the black bear issue, and notes that human interaction complaints have gone down after the two previous hunts in 2003 and 2005._