New Jersey's annual bear hunt began on Monday in spite of attempts by animal-rights groups to stop it.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued more than 7,800 permits to more than 6,400 people. Each permit allows the holder to shoot one bear in a 1,000-square-mile area of northern New Jersey, and some hunters received more than one permit. The estimated bear population in the state is 3,400.

According to officials, the population of black bears in that area is among the densest in the United States, and proponents of the hunt say it is a good way to keep the population under control and avoid potentially dangerous encounters between bears and humans.

You gotta keep your animals to a certain number -- no ands, ifs or buts about that, hunter Robert Melber, a Pennsylvania native, told Fox News. And there's a lot of bears in New Jersey.

Critics said the hunt was inhumane and a misguided attempt to control the population of nuisance bears -- those bears that encroach on people's property. Most black bears keep to themselves.

Hunters are harvesting wild bears living in the middle of the woods, not nuisance bears living near someone's garage, Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, told The New York Times.

Tittel and other opponents of the hunt have suggested aversion training, in which bears are conditioned to stay away from private property.

The jury is split on whether that would be an effective alternative to hunting.

They think these animals aren't wild animals but circus animals to be trained to avoid humans, Larry Rudolph, the president of the hunting and conservation group Safari Club International, told Fox News. That's not logical and that's not possible.

Supporters and opponents of the hunt sparred over its purpose, branding it alternately a management hunt to control the bear population and a trophy hunt in which hunters were just after souvenirs.

It is just a trophy hunt. It is not about bear population, it is not about safety -- it is a trophy hunt, one opponent, Susan Kehoe, said.

Hunting is the only way to control the population, Jim Sciasdia, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Fish and Wildlife Division, told The Star-Ledger. This is a management hunt, not a trophy hunt.