More people, animals and crops are in danger for every year that goes by in New Jersey without a black bear hunt, according to select lawmakers who are calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to reintroduce a controlled hunt.

But animal rights activists say all facts side with nonlethal management of the bear species.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced in late 2020 that it would be the last year of a bear hunt under his administration. The controversial topic reignited in January when bear attacks took the lives of two dogs in a matter of weeks in Sussex County.

"This is going to happen again," state. Sen. Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, told New Jersey 101.5.

"The Governor’s prohibition on bear hunting is contributing to this growing problem, making more potentially deadly interactions inevitable," added Assemblyman Parker Space, R-Sussex.

The New Jersey Fish and Game Council in September approved an emergency rule that would have allowed for a temporary return of the bear hunt, citing "imminent peril" without one. But the Murphy Administration didn't sign off on it. Murphy said his administration is committed to nonlethal and humane means to control the bear population.

Angi Metler, executive director of Animal Protection League of New Jersey, said it continues to oppose the "recreational trophy bear hunt."

"The key in reducing sightings, incidents, and increased bear reproduction is becoming Bear Smart -- securing garbage in approved bear-resistant cans and removing attractants such as bird feeders. In areas where bears frequent, it is vital to protect pets and animals who live outside," Metler said.

There is no correlation between the number of bears and the number of incidents, Metler said. In 2001, for example, the Division of Fish and Wildlife estimated about 1,777 bears in North Jersey, and bear incidents reported that year numbered 1,736. In 2020, with an estimated 3,158 bears in the area, around 1,400 incidents were recorded.

According to DFW, the Department of Environmental Protection was made aware of 767 sightings and complaints related to bears throughout all of 2021. That count was 1,408 in 2020.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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