STATE – A New Jersey appeals court heard oral arguments today in a case filed by two animal protection groups to stop the state’s next black bear hunt, which is scheduled to begin Monday. A ruling is expected before the hunt begins.
The New Jersey Sierra Club, which is not a party to the suit, is nonetheless opposed to the bear hunts.
“The hunt is more about politics a way for the Governor to show support for the hunting groups that supported him in the election,” said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel. “However, getting rid of the black bear is part of Christie’s roll back on environmental regulations. He wants to get rid of bears, forests, clean air, and clean water. It is all part of the same political strategy to turn New Jersey over to the developers and polluters. Unfortunately the only sure fire way to stop a bear hunt is to change Administrations.”
The hunt is set to begin on Dec. 5, lasting for six days. More than 6,000 people have applied for hunting permits. The Sierra Club has serious concerns with allowing another bear hunt to move forward after 592 bears were harvested in the last hunt.
Eliminating docile bears is not part of an effective bear management plan and the state still does not have a real plan in place, according to the New Jersey Sierra Club. The state Department of Environmental Protection’s current plan does not deal with the most important issue when it comes to bears – garbage. Garbage is a source of food for bears. If an abundant supply of trash is readily available, the bear population will increase and bears will become more aggressive as they learn that houses are good places to find food.
“The state needs to mandate no garbage out at night, bear-proof containers and locking dumpsters. If we don’t do something about garbage, no matter what there will always be bear problems in New Jersey,” Tittel said.
According to the New Jersey Sierra Club, an effective bear management plan would include the following:
- Protecting habitat: Every year the state loses 8,000-10,000 acres of land in bear country. The more we build houses in the middle of the woods where bears live, the more conflict we will see between bears and humans.
- Non-lethal methods of dealing with conflicts between bears and humans: One of the most important programs that has been cut is bear aversion therapy, which trains bears to be afraid of humans and, thus, to avoid them.
- Bear-proofing important public areas: The state should work with towns and municipalities to put up fencing and take other steps to keep bears out of key areas, such as playgrounds.
- Working with farmers: The state needs to cooperate with the agricultural sector to provide small grants to farmers that allow them to bear-proof their properties and protect them from potential damage.
- Conservation officers: The state should have conservation officers and bear wardens to address bear complaints and educate the public about bears.
- Garbage: The state must mandate no garbage out at night, as well bear-proof containers and locking dumpsters.
- Education: People living in bear country need to be educated about bear-proofing and how to deal with a bear on their property.
“The black bear is a symbol that we still have wild places in New Jersey and the whole state has not been paved over with subdivisions and strip malls,” Tittel said. “As New Jersey continues to suburbanize, we should be managing bears and protecting habitat instead of getting rid of the bears. We shouldn’t have a hunt just because it may be hard to sell condos in Vernon to people in Brooklyn because there are bears in the area.”
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