NJ reinstates bear hunt amid increased sightings

Additional hunting will be allowed if the goal to reduce the bear population by 20% isn't achieved in the first hunt.

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
NJ reinstates bear hunt amid increased sightings
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The New Jersey Fish and Game Council voted at its meeting Tuesday in Trenton to reinstate the state's controversial black bear hunt. Toni Yates has the story.

TRENTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- The New Jersey Fish and Game Council voted at its meeting Tuesday in Trenton to reinstate the state's controversial black bear hunt.

Governor Phil Murphy, who previously opposed the hunt, requested the move because there has been a significant increase in bear sightings around the state.

The governor also cited predictions by wildlife officials that the state's bear population could grow to more than 4,000 in the next two years.

"While I committed to ending the bear hunt, the data demands that we act now to prevent tragic bear-human interactions," he said.

The council's vote came after a morning of public comment. Council members heard from people on both sides of the issue.

"Governor Murphy's decision to recommend the resumption of bear hunts based on information provided by the Fish and Game Council should be reconsidered and more effective measures to reduce bear - human interactions should be enacted," said former N.J. State Senator Ray Lesniak.

"I would like to say, 'Thank you,' to Gov. Murphy and his administration for their courage to look at the scientific facts about the black bear population, and allowing the black bear hunt to take place," said Wade Stein, president of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs.

"I live in bear country," said NJ resident Debra Herrington. "And I haven't seen a bear in two years. And I'm out frequently."

"The Imminent Emergency Rule is a new political tactic used by fish-and-game agencies to circumvent public opposition, comment and input," said Angi Metler of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey. "This is not an emergency."

The council approved an emergency rule to allow the bear hunt to coincide with the annual 6-day shotgun season in December for deer, from December 5-10.

Additional hunting will be allowed from Dec. 14-17 if the goal to reduce the bear population by 20% isn't achieved in the first hunt.

Environmental activists and hunt opponents had criticized the governor's decision ahead of Tuesday's hearing.

"Governor Murphy campaigned to end the bear hunt and has flipped on his promise," said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club, in a statement. "This is extremely disappointing, especially since protecting wildlife is a critical component of our work at the Sierra Club who have 3.8 million members and supporters nationwide."

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reports show that there are around 3,000 black bears in Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties.

Reports of encounters are up 237 percent over last year with 62 aggressive encounters against humans, 12 dog attacks, 12 home entries and 52 livestock attacks.

Last week, officials in Connecticut put out a warning about black bears, alerting people to be aware as bears are very active seeking out more food in the Fall to add fat reserves needed to help them survive winter.

Back in August, a dog in Butler survived an attack by a bear in the family's backyard.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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