- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 12, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A state appeals court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to New Jersey’s bear hunt brought by animal protection organizations, ruling that New Jersey followed appropriate guidelines in expanding the hunt in 2015.

The League of Humane Voters of New Jersey and the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, along with several individuals, had sued to stop the implementation of the 2015 amendments that added a second annual hunt in October to the existing hunt in December; increased the number of hunting permits; and allowed bow hunting.

The hunt was reintroduced in New Jersey in 2003 to control the growing bear population, after a nearly three-decade hiatus. It has been held annually since 2010 and has faced ongoing legal challenges.

In the latest, the plaintiffs argued that the 2015 guidelines didn’t comply with legal precedent and that the state inflated the number of complaints about bears to justify its actions.

They also contended the state didn’t give enough consideration to non-lethal means of controlling the population such as fertility control and relocation.

In a 26-page opinion, the three-judge panel rejected those arguments and wrote that the state relied on scientific research when it developed the guidelines.

It cited the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s requirement that the hunt be closed if the harvest rate reaches 30 percent of the population of tagged bears as evidence that the policy isn’t “arbitrary or capricious.”

Nearly 1,300 bruins were killed in hunts in the last three years. The state has estimated that about 3,500 bears live in the state’s northwestern areas, though there have been sightings in all 21 counties.

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