Is a black bear hunt in New Jersey necessary, or even effective? It depends on who you ask.

Updated statistics from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife show while bear sightings in the Garden State are down 40 percent this year, the number of Category 1 serious bear incidents is up 40 percent.

So far in 2018 there have been 16 bear home entries, compared with seven during the same time frame in 2017.

The total number of Category 1 bear incidents this year is 32, compared with 19 last year.

Also, since Jan. 1, there have been 134 black bear sightings reported to state officials, while last year during the same time frame there were 188 reported sightings.

So what does this all mean?

Doris Lin, director of legal affairs for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, believes the number of reported bear sightings or complaints should not be considered valid scientific evidence of anything and should not be used to justify a bear hunt.

“Any increase in any kind of bear complaint could be due to the particular person who’s encountering the bear," she said.

John Rogalo, the northern region vice president of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, said the number of serious bear complaints is rising, even with a bear hunt every year, because in New Jersey we have “probably the densest black bear population that’s recorded in all of North America.”

He added black bears in Jersey also have the highest reproductive rates in North America, nearly three cubs per litter.

"We have slowed that curve down but that population is still growing, and when you have more bears on the ground, the negative interactions are more likely to occur," he said.

Rogalo insisted “if we didn’t have a bear hunt that number would skyrocket. It is necessary.”

Lin strongly disagrees.

“A bear hunt is not necessary. Even the Division of Fish and Wildlife recognizes that the bears are not biologically overpopulated," Lin said.

She said there can be a lot of factors that lead to an increase in bear complaints.

“It could be dependent on the amount of natural food that’s available, the amount of garbage that’s available, or it could be other attractants in the area.”

She added “hunters are encouraging each other to call in bear complaints — the public sees that complaints lead to bear hunts.”

She stressed to minimize contact with bears we need to bear-proof garbage cans, clean barbecue grills, raise bird feeders at least 12 feet in the air pick up any fallen fruit from trees that's on the ground.

Rogalo said 10 or 15 years ago, bears would show little or no fear of humans out in the woods, but since the bear hunt began the bears have become more secretive and will try to hide from people.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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