50 bears killed during first day of New Jersey's December bear hunt

The second segment of New Jersey's 2023 bear hunt got off to a quick start Monday with 50 bears killed across four counties, according to data from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The first-day totals, posted on the Division of Fish and Wildlife website, included 31 from Sussex County, seven from Morris County and six each from Passaic and Warren counties. No bears were reported killed in Bergen, Hunterdon, Somerset or Mercer counties.

The December hunt, in which hunters are permitted to use shotguns, will run through Saturday but may be extended for four days, from Dec. 13-16, if the harvest goal of 20% of the estimated bear population is not met. The six-day archery hunt in October yielded 331 bears, including 158 in Sussex County.

Assistant Commissioner Dave Golden, who heads the Division of Fish and Wildlife watches as Kaitlyn Barone, a DFW senior wildlife worker, takes samples from a bear killed on the opening day of the black bear archery season Oct. 9, 2023.
Assistant Commissioner Dave Golden, who heads the Division of Fish and Wildlife watches as Kaitlyn Barone, a DFW senior wildlife worker, takes samples from a bear killed on the opening day of the black bear archery season Oct. 9, 2023.

This year will mark the first full bear hunt since 2020. It did not take place in 2021 due to the lack of an updated Comprehensive Black Bear Management Plan — part of Gov. Phil Murphy's goal to cancel the hunt altogether — and last year's archery hunt was canceled as well.

The shotgun session returned in December 2022, but was temporarily delayed due to an emergency stay. A state court lifted the stay near the end of the second scheduled day.

The number of bears killed Monday is more than 40% of the 114 recorded during last year's abbreviated hunt. There were 74 bears killed during the 10-day extended hunt in December 2020 and 50 during another 10-day hunt in 2019, according to the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Biological information is gathered from a black bear from a hunter's truck during the New Jersey black bear hunt at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Newton, NJ Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Biological information is gathered from a black bear from a hunter's truck during the New Jersey black bear hunt at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Newton, NJ Wednesday, December 7, 2022.

The black bear hunting area includes all of Sussex and Warren counties and parts of Bergen, Morris, Passaic, Hunterdon, Somerset and Mercer counties. The area is divided into five zones, with a permit required for each zone and a limit of two permits per hunter.

Each killed bear is brought to a check station, open from noon to 7 p.m. every day of the hunt. Wildlife officials at the stations will weigh the bear and take biological samples of teeth and hair for DNA analysis.

Hunting regulations prohibit the killing of a bear weighing 75 pounds or less or any adult bear accompanying a bear of that size.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: 50 bears killed during first day of NJ's December bear hunt