TRENTON – On Monday, Dec. 3, the Department of Environmental Protection and its Division of Fish and Wildlife will begin a six-day bear hunt, to run through Saturday, Dec 8.
State officials estimate between 2,800 and 3,000 black bears live in the northwestern portion of New Jersey, which is down from an estimated 3,400 when the state Fish and Game Council approved the current bear management plan in 2010.
“We are working to stabilize and reduce the state’s black bear population, to eventually be maintained at a density that minimizes human/bear conflicts, provides for a sustainable population within suitable bear habitat, and minimizes movement of bears to unsuitable habitat in suburban and urban areas,” said Dave Chanda, Director of the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Critics disagree with the state’s bear policy. “This hunt was supposed to be sustainable keeping the same number of bears instead the number of bears is dropping with close to a third now done,” said Jeff Tittel, director of New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is not a sustainable hunt or manageable hunt. If we keep having hunts we may be back to where we were in 1970 with only 50 bears in New Jersey. The department says they have a bear management plan, but they don’t. They do not have the funding for staff to manage bears properly or even to educate the public.
In addition to the annual hunt, the state’s bear management plan includes non-lethal bear management techniques, a bear feeding ban, and enhanced efforts to keep human food sources, especially household trash, away from bears to limit bear-human encounters.
Bear hunting zones include large sections of Morris, Sussex, Warren, and northern Passaic counties, plus smaller areas of Hunterdon, Somerset and Bergen counties. Licensed hunters with a black bear permit are limited to taking one bear during the six-day season. More than 6,500 bear hunting permits have been issued in 2012.
During last year’s hunt, more than 9,000 permits were issued and 469 bears were harvested. About 20 percent of harvested bears were considered “nuisance bears” that had caused property damage and/or were involved in bear-human incidents, generating many of the public complaints.
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