With days to go, bear hunters in New Jersey top last year’s haul

 Mike Donahue of Stanhope, New Jersey, stands with a 346-pound male bear that he killed as he waits at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area for check-in during last year's bear  hunt.(AP file photo)

Mike Donahue of Stanhope, New Jersey, stands with a 346-pound male bear that he killed as he waits at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area for check-in during last year's bear hunt.(AP file photo)

The six-day black bear hunt in New Jersey runs through Saturday. But hunters have already shot more of them than last year.

In the first two days of the hunt, 309 bears were killed. That exceeds the 272 taken during the entire season last year.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna said springlike weather is a factor.

“In past seasons, the hunt has been marked pretty dreary weather, rain, snow, very cold,” he said. “I think we’re seeing a lot more hunters taking advantage of the permits that they purchased.”

It’s too soon to determine whether the hunt might be extended beyond Saturday, Hajna said.

“Toward the end of the week, we’ll have more numbers in hand, and we’ll be able to make a better evaluation as to whether or not we will extend the hunt by up to four days and that would begin on Wednesday of next week,” he said.

State wildlife officials say the hunt is necessary to keep the bear population sustainable and minimize conflicts with people.

Critics say hunters are unlikely to kill the bears most likely to wander into residential areas.

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