HARRISON — A couple days before New Jersey's 2020 black bear hunt was to begin — possibly the last during Gov. Phil Murphy's administration — a bear was spotted on a commercial building roof in Hudson County, according to township police.

Sharing the photo of a black bear appearing to stand atop a one-level building, Harrison Police said in a Facebook post Sunday that there had been sightings reported in the Harrison and Kearny area.

A bear first was seen Saturday afternoon near a Walmart store close to the Harrison and Kearny border, according to Det. Lt. Charles Schimpf. He said a few hours later, around 10:30 p.m., Harrison Police got calls about a bear seen around Red Bull arena — and then very early Sunday, around 3:30 a.m., responding officer saw a bear on the roof of 1 Cleveland Avenue.

Schimpf said as Harrison Police called in support from Port Authority police, the bear climbed down to street level and ran towards the Passaic river and was not seen by police further.

Residents were told to use caution and avoid approaching any bear that might be in the community, and instead contact police.

Monday marks the start of the first segment of black bear hunting in New Jersey, over a six-day span.
The first three days are for archery only, followed by three days for both archery and muzzleloading rifle hunters.

In December, another stretch of permitted bear hunting is for firearms only, according to state regulations.

Murphy, a longtime opponent of New Jersey's bear hunts, announced last week that this year's bear hunt would be the last under his administration.

The governor said the New Jersey Fish and Game Council would then take up proposed amendment to the state's game code, suspending the annual bear hunt, removing the current bear management policy from the code and developing a new policy, focused on non-lethal management techniques.

In 2018, the governor did ban bear hunting on state land, including state forests, parks, recreation areas, historic sites, wildlife management areas and natural areas.

A bear activity report issued this fall by the Division of Fish and Wildlife said 262 bear sightings were reported to the DEP over a 9-month span from January through Sept. 21, up 87% over the same span a year earlier.

There also were 811 instances of bear-involved nuisance or damage over the same period, up 61% over a year earlier — including 192 "garbage" related incidents, 95 vehicle strikes and 34 of injured bears.

Since January, black bear sightings have been reported to the DEP in 17 of the state's 21 counties.

Sightings in Sussex County also nearly doubled, to 410 over 219 in 2019, and sightings tripled in Bergen County to 37 over 16 the year earlier.

The sightings and complaints reported to DEP did not include incidents handled by police departments without DEP assistance.

A status report issued in 2018 by the Division of Fish and Wildlife on the existing black bear management policy said that without continued population management by regulated sport hunting, "NJ’s
black bear population will double in five years."

Angi Metler, the executive director of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, said in a written statement following Murphy's Oct. 5th announcement that the league's Bear Group, “applauds Gov. Murphy’s sentiment to end bear hunts after 2020."

Metler also previously said they still were appealing to Murphy’s compassion to suspend by Executive Order the 2020 hunt.

Seasonal, licensed bear hunting returned to New Jersey 2003, when 328 bears were killed. In 2005, 298 were killed. The hunts were then stopped again during Gov. Jon Corzine’s term, but returned under Gov. Chris Christie.

During last year's hunt in October and December 2019, 315 black bears were killed.

The proposed amendment to suspend bear hunts will be the subject of a public hearing and testimony from the public. The state DEP said it would be held virtually via video conferencing software Nov. 4 at 2 p.m.

Written comments can be submitted electronically by Dec. 4. at nj.gov/dep/rules/comments.

With previous reporting by Michael Symon

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