Bear hunt begins again Monday — It could be NJ’s last for a while
New Jersey hunters will be active this week, as another segment of the bear hunt begins Monday along with the six-day firearm deer season.
Hunt opponents remain exasperated with Gov. Phil Murphy that the bear hunt is happening, while participants are disappointed that it remains forbidden from state lands for the second straight year.
Murphy says he opposes the hunt but that his hands are tied because the Fish and Game Council enacted a five-year bear management plan in 2015. Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said past governors canceled scheduled hunts — and that Murphy should have tried that, then taken his chances in court.
“Under his watch close to a thousand bears may end up being killed,” Tittel said. “So all I can say is that governor says one thing and his administration does something else.”
Between last year’s hunt and this year’s, 490 bears have been killed so far since Murphy took office. Since bear hunting returned in 2003, at first sporadically but then annually since 2010, more than 4,500 have been killed.
This year’s hunt could be the last one in New Jersey for a while, depending on how things unfold over the next year. This is the last year for the current bear management plan, so a new one would have to be in place for it to continue.
That would give Murphy a chance to reject the plan by vetoing the minutes of the meeting where it is considered.
“There’s no excuses this year. There’s even less of an excuse next year,” Tittel said.
The first segment of the bear hunt was held in October, for archery and muzzleloader rifles. The second segment will run from Monday through Saturday and could be extended to also include Dec. 18 to 21, depending on how many additional tagged bears are killed.
This week’s hunt runs concurrently with the six-day firearm deer season.
In the October portion of the hunt, 265 bears were killed. This is the fourth year in which the season is split into two segments; in the last three, more bears were killed during the October segment than in December.