FREDON, N.J. (AP) — Hunters have headed out across parts of the state for the second half of this year's bear hunt following the apparent death of a bear that walked upright like a human.
The firearms-only hunt started shortly before daybreak Monday, though officials say early morning fog cut visibility for hunters and reduced animal movements before it burned off in early afternoon. About 2 inches of snow had fallen overnight in the higher-elevation areas.
The hunt is scheduled to last through Saturday, but officials have said it could end early depending on how many bears are culled in the coming week.
Hunters killed 562 bears during October's six-day hunt, which was limited to bows and arrows and muzzle-loading guns, and 23 percent of them were previously tagged bears. This week's hunt will be suspended once the cumulative harvest rate of tagged bears reaches 30 percent.
New Jersey approved resuming the bear hunt in 2003 after more than 30 years. Hunters and wildlife officials say the hunt is a way to curb a growing bruin population that was increasingly crossing paths with humans, but animal welfare groups and some lawmakers say the hunt causes more problems and is inhumane.
Opponents are rallying behind the apparent death of Pedals, a bipedal bear believed to have been killed in October's hunt. Pedals walked upright like a human and was seen in numerous videos, becoming a celebrity.
Pedals first surfaced about two years ago in Jefferson Township. The bear walked with an unusual gait on its hind legs and was spotted ambling around neighborhoods. It appeared in videos posted online and shown on national television.
The New Jersey Herald reports that roughly two dozen people gathered early Monday at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Fredon to peacefully show their opposition to the hunt. Officials said no arrests had been reported.
Some protesters yelled "stop the killing" and "murderers" while another read what was intended as a eulogy for a killed bear as the first few hunters carried their kills to the check-in station at the wildlife area.
This story has been corrected to show the number of bears killed in October was 562, not 549.