Self defense or hunting? Man shot 3 bears at home, is now battling NJ
Was a man who shot three bears at his Sparta home doing it in self-defense or for sport? A court will eventually decide.
Robert Ehling, 78, said that last October, a 300 pound bear showed up early one morning on his back deck trying to get at a bag of birdseed behind the sliding glass door. With a shotgun in his hand, he went outside to try and shoo the bear away, he said. Instead, the bear turned its head and looked at Ehling, who fired his weapon, he said. The bear fell over the railing, he said.
He went to look over the railing and saw a second bear climbing onto the deck and he shot at that bear as well, Ehling said. Then a third bear showed up and let out a roar and Ehling shot that bear as well, he said.
After he reported the incident to police, representatives from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Game came to his home to investigate. Despite Ehling's explanation that he shot in self defense he was issued four tickets, each with a $100 fine, for hunting out of season and hunting near a home, according to the report.
"They send four up here the first day," Ehling told New Jersey 101.5. "I'm sure they're spent $8,000 to $10,000 on this already just so they can collect a $100 fine from 'Old Man Ehling," adding that Fish and Game performed an autopsy on each of the bears.
"I assure you I was not hunting, " said Ehling's, who would like to see all charges dropped. "Taking bears out of season. That's nonsense. Somebody who's protecting his own house, that's bulls--t to put someone through this."
Ehling said he is a former hunter and still enjoys fishing.
"My attitude in all the years that I did go was that I wouldln't kill anything I couldn't eat," and said he never encountered a bear when he hunted.
He said he will not take a deal and plead guilty to something he didn't do. The case will be heard at the end of November.
Larry Hajna, spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Game, said in an email that the bears in Ehling's backyard were a sow (female bear) with her two cubs.
"Nothing unusual about that at all," explained Hajna. "The cubs don’t leave their mother until they are at least a year old." The bears were likely looking for food and will generally move on if they don't find any food, according to Hajna.
"Sussex, Warren, Passaic and Morris have the largest populations of bears," Hajna said. "For years we have focused education efforts on these counties to reduce the risk of bear encounters."
He said residents should not take matters into their own hands, but instead call police, who have been provided with guidance on how to handle these types of situations.
"If they (police) deem a bear is aggressive or poses a safety threat, they may shoot it," Hajna said in an email to New Jersey 101.5. "Residents can also contact the DEP hotline at 877-927-6337 (877-WARNDEP). We will send biologists to assess the situation. If the bear is still on the property and in their professional judgment poses a safety threat, they will shoot it. If the bear has already left the property, we will set a trap if the property owner consents."