TRENTON - Wildlife officials estimate that 200 bears were killed Monday on the first day of the state's black bear hunt.
State officials have said the six-day hunt is needed to reduce the state's bruin population, now estimated at 3,400. But critics say the state's bear-management policy is flawed and was developed arbitrarily.
Animal advocates had gone to court to block the hunt, but they were rebuffed Thursday by a state appellate court. They spent part of Monday securing permission to demonstrate at various bear check stations.
Attorneys for animal-rights groups wanted to demonstrate at the Franklin bear check station in Sussex County, which they said was the most visible spot for the public to see their antihunting message. But wildlife officials wanted to keep protesters away from the Franklin station over safety concerns, noting its limited space and location on a major highway.
A state Superior Court ruled that as many as 25 people could protest at that site and granted demonstrators the right to have larger protests at two other weigh stations.
One protester was arrested at the Franklin site after refusing to move from a restricted area.
Environmental Protection Department officials said the hunt's first day went smoothly. About 150 bears had been processed by late afternoon, with 200 total expected by nightfall, they said.
Officials say 8,000 permits have been issued to about 6,500 hunters for this year's hunt.
Preliminary figures released Monday from the Pennsylvania Game Commission show that this year's three bear seasons there were the second most productive in that state's history.
Hunters took 3,968 bears this year, game commission executive director Carl Roe said. That is second to 2005, when hunters took 4,164 bears.