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New Jersey’s latest bear hunt may also be last for a while

TRENTON, N.J. — Hunters across New Jersey are making final preparations for the state’s next black bear hunt, which also may be the last one the state holds for some time.

While a formal decision won’t be made until next year, the hunt’s future seemed to be sealed on election night, when Democrat Phil Murphy — who has called for a moratorium on the hunts — won the gubernatorial race.

The state’s firearm-only season is scheduled for Dec. 4 to 9. It comes just weeks after 243 bears were killed during a six-day hunt staged mostly in northern New Jersey. The first three days of the last hunt were reserved for bow hunting, with bows and muzzle-loading guns allowed the final three days.

New Jersey resumed state-regulated bear hunting in 2003 after a ban that lasted more than 30 years. Another hunt was held in 2005, and in 2010 the state made it annual.

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WHY IS A HUNT HELD?

State wildlife officials have touted the annual hunts as an important part of controlling the bear population and minimizing run-ins with humans.

Black bears serve an important role in healthy ecosystems. They can travel great distances and disperse the seeds of many different plant species while feeding on fruits and berries. They can also clear out small amounts of vegetation while foraging, which opens up space for other plants.

But officials say there are concerns some may be going hungry due to the bear population density being too high.

Animal rights activists and other critics say the hunts are inhumane and unnecessary. They also argue that the number of bear-human incidents is down.