Animal protection groups are running out of time to stop New Jersey's black bear hunt.

An appeals court is scheduled to hand down a ruling today after both sides made their arguments Tuesday.

Doris Lin, a lawyer with the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, says the case is not about the philosophical debate about hunting, but a bear management policy that is based on faulty data.

"The bear management policy was written by hunters for hunters, and this is the crux of our appeal."

Tuesday's oral arguments before a three-judge panel focused on the Division of Fish and Wildlife's 2010 comprehensive bearm management policy, which includes a hunt. The state maintains that a hunt is needed to keep the black bear population of around 3,400 in check.

Anna Siedman, a lawyer for the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and Safari Club International, told the panel that recreational hunting actually helps maintain a sustainable bear population. "The state properly includes a black bear hunt to maintain New Jersey's population. I think a lot of people don't understand the role that hunting plays in conservation."

Lin says there are other non-lethal methods to control bear population including research and public education. "If we can keep the bears away from residential areas by having people keep lids on their garbage, not put up birdfeeders, etc; I mean these are simple things people can do."

What about the increase in bear complaint calls the state has received in recent years? "They may have thousands of bear complaints, but there are millions of people in New Jersey and they certainly don't have millions of phone calls" said Lin.

Seidman says a bear hunt help's them better understand the species. "It enables us to track the bears and study them, their traits, their characteristics, how they behave."

Two animal rights groups sued the state last year, challenging the bear management policy that allows an annual six-day hunt. The activists failed to stop last year's hunt, in which 592 black bears were killed, but the lawsuit was allowed to continue on its merits. Last year's hunt was the first in five years.

A ruling is expected before December 5th, the hunt's scheduled start date. An appeal to the state Supreme Court is possible.