- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - State wildlife officials say hunters killed 510 bears during New Jersey’s extended black bear hunt.

The second and final phase of this year’s hunt concluded Saturday night.

The Fish & Wildlife Division’s website showed that more than half of the bears were shot in Sussex County, where hunters harvested 312 bruins. Another 94 were killed in Warren County, while 58 were killed in Morris County and 35 in Passaic County.

A six-day hunt staged in December 2014 ended with 272 bruins killed.

This year’s initial six-day hunt started Dec. 7, and 472 bruins were killed during that time.

But state wildlife officials extended the season by four days after the number of bears harvested during the hunt fell short of goals. Another 38 were killed during that time.

The state recently expanded the areas where hunting was allowed to all or portions of Hunterdon, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties, and parts of Bergen and Mercer counties.

Wildlife officials say the annual hunt is an important part of their bear management plan and helps control the bruin population while reducing the potential for conflicts with people.

Activists and other critics contend it’s inhumane and unnecessary.

“It has been clear from the beginning that New Jersey’s hunts have done nothing to reduce bear incidents in the state. This hunt has not been about managing bears or dealing with nuisance bears, it has been nothing more than a trophy hunt,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

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