Sierra Club Says New Legislation, Not Another Hunt, Is Needed To Manage NJ’s Problem Bears

 A black bear sitting (Photo credit:  United States Fish and Wildlife Service)

A black bear sitting (Photo credit: United States Fish and Wildlife Service)

STATE – With the state’s fourth bear hunt scheduled to begin Monday, the New Jersey Sierra Club is calling on lawmakers to pass a bill that would require the use of bear resistant containers, dumpsters, or food boxes in black bear habitat.

“This bear hunt is unneeded and unnecessary since there are better ways to manage bears,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Instead of having another hunt we should pass this legislation since it will do more to manage bears than hunts will. Nuisance bears have become problem bears and they will end up being destroyed. This is used as a justification for the bear hunt instead of putting in place real bear management policies.”

According to the New Jersey Sierra Club, the recreational hunt will lead to a large loss of the New Jersey black bear population, but will not do anything to deal with nuisance bears that are hiding under decks or behind garages and avoiding the hunters.

“The Bear Smart Bill” (S2369), sponsored by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), was approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee last month, but is currently awaiting action by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. An Assembly version of the bill has not moved since being referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee last year.

The proposed legislation would establish 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.”

“The Christie administration has cut back the number of conservation officers that handle bear complaints and education,” said Tittel. “They also have virtually eliminated all education programs on how to live in bear country, bear proof your property, and any program dealing with garbage. Also there is no money for open space to preserve open habitat. Basically they do not have a bear management plan, they just have a hunt.”

“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,” Tittel continued. “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.”

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