216 bears have been slayed during the first day of the New Jersey’s Weeklong bear hunt, it has been announced on Monday, December 7.
Apparently, the quickest hunter was Marc Beardslee: just like the previous year, he was the one who managed to bring the first bear carcass to the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, located on Fredon Springdale Road in Newton, Sussex County.
Beardslee credits God with this achievement, explaining that he was blessed enough to spot a bear in the early hours of morning, long before sunrise, therefore benefiting from a head start.
Given that he had become familiar with the animal’s usual routes, he was able to effectively track the bear across his private land in the Sparta township.
Eventually, following a brief pursuit, he managed to fatally shoot his quarry, a bear which he estimated to have been around 3 years old. As Berdslee jokes, his first success of the week happened so fast that he hadn’t even opened his Thermos yet.
Just like the year before, the hunter had used his shotgun in order to secure the kill, and has no qualms about being passionate about this activity, claiming that in fact he has seen a larger number of bears in the area since 2010.
He even insists that the contest actually assists the bear population, because usually the animals that are slayed are the weakest, oldest and most vulnerable. Therefore, this selective slaughter helps more sturdy specimens to survive, passing their superior genes to offspring.
The same position has been adopted by representatives of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, who explained that after a pause of more than 3 decades, the annual bear hunt had to be re-introduced in 2003, so as to cull the bear population, which had experienced an overly sharp rise, putting a strain on the environment.
Apparently, adopting a bear management strategy was considered important also because these potentially dangerous animals have been venturing closer and closer to human communities, so as to forage for increasingly more elusive sources of sustenance.
As a result, on several occasions locals were the victims of terrifying bear encounters, which culminated in rescue interventions, during which the bears had to be euthanized.
However, the decision to organize periodic hunts so as to curb the bear population has been deemed excessively brutal and gratuitous by animal rights advocates, such as Angie Metler, the director of the Bear Education and Resource Center.
She was one of the several dozens of people who took part in a demonstration outside the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, where the harvested animals are being brought so as to be measured, recorded and tagged.
Metler has condemned this recently introduced competition which encourages hunters to kill as many bears as they can, arguing that more humane strategies could be adopted, in order to prevent bears from entering populated areas.
For instance, trash cans should be properly secured, and outdoor grills should be stored inside following the barbecue, so as not to entice the starved animals.
Another protester, 70-year old Jerome Mandel who used to work as a science teacher in Newton, explained that conducting the Weeklong Bear Hunt is the equivalent of sanctioning mass murder, while claiming that it’s imperative and indispensable.
Back in 2014, a total of 272 bears were slayed during the competition, and it is expected that this year the number will be even higher.
As explained by Carole Stanko, of the Bureau of Wildlife Management, because more bears have been spotted throughout New Jersey, hunting grounds covered by the controversial contest have been substantially expanded, so as to include several counties, such as Morris, Sussex, Hunterdon, Mercer, Passaic, Bergen, Warren and Somerset.
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