A six-day black bear hunt begins today in seven northwestern New Jersey counties.

Mor than 6,400 permits have been issued for this year's hunt that will take place in Morris, Sussex, Warren and northern Passaic counties, plus smaller areas of Hunterdon, Somerset and Bergen from sunrise to sunset December 5th through December 10th.

State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese says the goal, "is to find a way to manage the bear population and bring it down to a level where human and bear interactions can be manageable in New Jersey."

The hunt is only one component of the state's Comprehensive Bear Management Policy, which also includes public education and nonlethal bear management measures.

"We have educational resources, trash management, ways to teach people to co-exist with the bears" said Ragonese.

Hunters are limited to one black bear per licensed and registered hunter.

Last year a record 592 bears were harvested in the hunt.

Meanwhile, animal rights activists are not done fighting just yet. Members of the Bear Education And Resource Group and the Animal Protection League of NJ will head to the Franklin bear check station to protest the black bear hunt, despite the NJ Department of Environmental Protection's denial of their protest permit request.

The gpup has filed an emergent motion with the Appellate Division and hopes to have a decision in their favor and a protest permit before the scheduled start of the protest at 12 noon, but the protest will go on whether they have a protest permit or not.

Ragonese said Sunday that the agency never agreed to the groups' request. He said safety concerns spurred the decision to keep protesters from the check station, noting its limited space and location to a major highway. He said they offered two other sites for the protest, but the groups declined.

Information on the number of bears harvested will be posted online on Monday evening, as soon as possible after the 7 p.m. closing of the five check stations. On subsequent days, postings will occur by 8 a.m. the next morning.