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Disputed hunt bags 589 bears

N.J. overcame opposition by animal-rights groups.

TRENTON - A total of 589 bears were killed during New Jersey's six-day hunt last week, state wildlife officials said Sunday.

Wildlife officials have said the hunt, which ended at dusk Saturday in seven northwestern counties and was New Jersey's first since 2005, was needed to reduce a black bear population thought to number about 3,400.

But opponents contended that the policy had been developed improperly.

Two animal-rights groups - the Animal Protection League and the Bear Education and Resource Group - had tried to prevent the hunt. But a state appeals court refused Dec. 3 to halt it, and the next day a state Supreme Court justice refused to grant an emergency stay. The lawsuit, which challenges the state's bear-management policy as improper, is continuing.

A similar challenge succeeded in 2007, and no hunt was held. An appeals panel found flaws with the management policy and ruled that the 2005 hunt should not have taken place.

About 6,680 permits were issued for this year's hunt, with each hunter entitled to one bear regardless of age or gender.