Activists: Stop black bear hunt before it starts

November 27, 2011 5:02:52 PM PST
Animal protection groups are heading to court Tuesday to try to convince a New Jersey appeals panel to halt this year's black bear hunt in its tracks.

The case is expected to be decided by Dec. 5, the scheduled start of a six-day hunt in the northwest part of the state.

The Animal Protection League of New Jersey and The Bear Education and Resource Group will try to convince the judges that the state's Comprehensive Bear Management Policy is flawed. The policy includes an annual hunt.

The state maintains a hunt is necessary to keep the black bear population in check.

The Department of Environmental Protection recorded 2,667 reports of bear activity this year through October. That number includes bear sightings, attacks on livestock, 46 home entries and 516 reports of bears picking through garbage.

Bear activity has been reported in 19 of the state's 21 counties this year.

Hunters killed 592 black bears last year. It was the first hunt in five years.

The animal activist groups failed to get last year's hunt stopped, but their court case was allowed to continue.

"The black bear policy is full of scientific flaws, self-contradictions and outright fabrications," said Doris Lin, director of legal services for the BEAR Group. "The lawsuit is not about philosophical objections to hunting; it's about integrity and science, both of which are missing from the policy."

For example, she says the number of bear complaints is actually decreasing, and that the state's claims are based on more police departments being included in the reporting data.

A judge acting on a petition to the state Supreme Court refused to grant an emergency stay last year, after an appeals panel declined to call off the hunt.

A similar challenge succeeded in 2007 and no hunt was held. An appeals panel found flaws with the management policy and ruled that the 2005 hunt should not have taken place.

Some 6,680 bear hunting permits were issued for last year's hunt, with each hunter entitled to one bear regardless of age or gender. The DEP maintains the right to halt the hunt early based on the number of bears killed.

The hunt is held concurrently with the firearm deer season. Bear hunting is allowed in the area north of Interstate 78 and west of Interstate 287.

Besides a hunt, the Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy developed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife includes education, a bear feeding ban and aversive conditioning.

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