NJ adds 2nd bear hunt this year — animal lovers call it overkill
Since 2010, New Jersey has held a bear hunt every December.
This year, however, a second hunt take will take place in October.
Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the October hunt will last for six days and be split up into two phases.
“The first three days will be archery only, and then the final three days will be a combination of archery and muzzle loading rifle,” he said.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife did a comprehensive analysis of bear data over the past five years, factoring in the number of animals killed in different parts of the state during hunts, the number of bear complaints, and the total number of bear-human incidents.
“We’ve determined while successful, the December hunt needed to be supplemented by a fall hunt when bears are more active,” he said. “This will enable the hunters to access the bears at a time of year when they’re more likely to be out and about.”
Hajna says bears continue to move into populated areas, overturning garbage cans, and that’s a problem.
“The idea here is to give us an added management tool that will address these situations and keep the bear population sustainable,” he said.
Doris Lin, director of legal affairs for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, said the bear hunt is completely unnecessary.
“The population of bears is not out of control, and they haven’t even exceeded their biological carrying capacity. If you ask the Division of Fish and Wildlife, they will admit that to you,” she said.
Lin stressed the hunt “is about giving the hunters a chance to go out in the woods and get a trophy, and we don’t think even one bear should be turned into a trophy.”
She said the way to prevent any human bear conflicts is through non-lethal management.
“As long as there are bear attractions in suburban neighborhoods, you’re going to attract bears no matter how many bears there are,” she said. “We need to be smart about bear-proofing garbage cans, making sure our outdoor grills are clean and putting bird feeders out of reach.”
Hajna insists there’s more to it than that.
“Bears are a wonderful animal to have in our state. We’re very fortunate to have them in New Jersey. However, like in many other states, we feel that proper management includes a closely monitored hunting program that supplements bear education,” he said.
When asked how many bears currently call the Garden State home, Hajna said no one is really sure.
He pointed out there are roughly 3,000 bears living in northwest Jersey, where the hunt will take place, but bruins have been sighted in all 21 counties.
Last year, 510 bears were killed by hunters, while in 2014 there were 272 bears killed.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.