Senate Panel Approves Lesniak’s “Bear Smart” Bill

State Sen. Ray Lesniak

State Sen. Ray Lesniak

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak that would ban intentional “bear baiting”, the practice of luring bears with food so they can be “hunted,” and establish food disposal rules in areas with known bear populations gained the approval of a Senate committee on Thursday. The measure, S-2369, entitled “The Bear Smart Bill,” gained passage in the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

“One of the problems with bears coming into communities and becoming a danger is created by the humans themselves, sometimes intentionally but usually unintentionally,” said Lesniak. “Unless they are lured by the smell of food they would not venture into communities or into backyards. This is matter of public safety where we can take some simple steps to keep bears away.”

“We have been advocating for an effective bear management plan that combines non-lethal methods of dealing with bears, public education, and steps that properly handle garbage,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.  “We will never have a real bear management plan unless we deal with garbage and human bear interaction. Whether we have a hunt or not we need to have a proper management plan. This legislation is a step in the right direction and will help with one aspect of dealing with bears in New Jersey.”

Lesniak said his bill would also keep the bears from unnecessary slaughter through residents baiting them with food repeatedly to a single location so they can be hunted.

“This practice is immoral and equivalent to shooting fish in a barrel, and is not a sport,” said Lesniak. “This is the most effective and moral approach to living with bears.”

The legislation also establishes comprehensive trash disposal rules in municipalities with known bear population. It would require the use of bear-resistant containers in campgrounds, closed communities and municipalities located in bear habitats. The state would have 90 days to provide a list of municipalities and then adopt amendments to the State Sanitary Code for bear-resistant dumpsters and garbage bins.

“This will provide New Jersey with common sense practices now used in states with much greater bear populations, such as Alaska and California,” said Lesniak. “Removing easy access to human foods has proven to reduce human interaction with bears.”

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