Bear hunters are fanning out across the state as New Jersey's latest state-mandated hunt gets underway.
State wildlife officials tout the annual hunt as an important part of their bear management plan, saying it's needed to control the population and help protect the environment. But it continues to draw fire from animal activists and other critics who contend it's inhumane and not necessary.
The state recently expanded the areas where hunting will be allowed during the six-day event. It will be permitted this year in all or portions of Hunterdon, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties, and portions of Bergen and Mercer counties.
New Jersey resumed state-regulated bear hunting in 2003 after more than 30 years.
Hunters harvested 272 bears during last year's hunt.