New Jersey's black bear hunt is off to a slow start.

The Department of Environmental Protection reports 20 bears were killed on Wednesday, the first fill day of hunting. Only one bear was reported killed on Tuesday, the first day hunting was allowed.

According to the DEP, nine bears were killed in Sussex County, five in Warren County and three each in Passaic and Morris counties.

In 2020, the last bear hunt held in New Jersey, 62 black bears were killed in the first day of hunting. In all, 410 bears were killed during the 2020 hunt. 315 were culled in 2019.

The controversial hunt was allowed to proceed this week after an appeals court lifted a temporary order blocking the state's bear management plan.

Opponents of the hunt appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, but the justices refused to issue a stay.

Legal challenges will, however, continue.

Former State Sen. Raymond Lesniak has been a vocal opponent of the bear hunt, and posted on Facebook that he would soon file a new lawsuit,

"Next step," Lesniak wrote, "I’ll be filing a lawsuit to declare that the composition of the Fish & Game Council violates Article Three of the New Jersey Constitution."

The one time candidate for governor insists the makeup of the council is a violation of New Jersey's constitution.

"A majority of its members are recommended by a private organization, The Sportsmen's Clubs, thereby giving government authority to a biased group," Lesniak claims. He insists the authority to make government policy resides solely with the governor, legislature and judiciary.

While Lesniak may, in fact, have an argument to be made in court, the likelihood of any suit being successful in time to impact this year's hunt is small.

Gov. Phil Murphy had campaigned on stopping the hunting of black bears, and banned hunting after the 2020 hunt.

He reversed course this year, claiming a hunt was the only way to "keep people safe" from a rising number of bear-human encounters.

This year's hunt is scheduled to run through Dec. 10. However, it may be extended to Dec. 17 if DEP "harvest objectives" are not met. It is not clear how many bear the DEP is targeted for harvest.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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