In order to keep the Jersey black bear population under control, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife has allowed an annual bear hunt since 2010 — and two more hunts are being planned for later this year. But are these hunts really necessary?

“We’re working to reduce and stabilize the bear population. But the results right now, I think, are too premature to say that the bear population is being reduced. I think we’ll have a better idea as we go throughout this whole entire year,” said Mike Madonia, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife black bear project leader.

He added “the initial results look like we are reaching our objective as far as reducing and stabilizing the bear population.”

Doris Lin, director of legal affairs for the animal protection league of New Jersey, said her organization strongly objects to what the division  is doing.

“The bear population is not a problem. People don’t care how many bears there are. What they care about is bears getting into their garbage cans, into their bird feeders and cooking grills,” she said. “That can only be controlled with non-lethal methods because no matter how many bears there are they’re going to be attracted to those barbecue grills and garbage cans, so we need to be smart about bear-proof garbage cans, cleaning our grills and where we hang bird feeders.”

She added the real problem is “they’re just going to keep hunting and hunting because that’s the goal, it’s sport hunting, it’s a trophy hunt.

"Trophy hunting is particularly offensive to a lot of people because the primary reason is to turn the bear into a trophy on your wall or a rug in front of your fireplace," Lin said. "Very few people want to see that.”

Madonia stressed the goal of the bear hunting season "is to reduce and then stabilize our bear population. Bears have been sighted in all 21 counties. They aren’t at the density that we have them down in South Jersey as we do up North, but they have been sighted in all 21 counties.”

He added no one is really sure how many bears are living in the Garden State
“Last year’s bear population estimate north of (Route) 78 and west of (Route) 287 was about approximately 28 hundred animals. That’s where most of them are living," Madonia said.

During last year’s bear hunt 510 bears were “harvested.” Madonia said this year there will probably be a two-segment bear hunt — one in October and then one in December if the initial target harvest is not achieved. That number has not been set yet – it will be announced in early fall, and will be based on how many bears are tagged and released around the state over the next several months.

For all of 2015 there were a total of 565 black bear damage and nuisance reports, and so far this year (through June 20) there have been 460 reports.

In 2015 there were 41 Category 1 black bear incidents (considered to be an immediate threat to life or property) and so far this year there have been 15.

Category 1 includes:

Damage to Agriculture
Attempted Home Entries
Unprovoked Dog Attack
Human Attacks
Livestock Kills
Protected Livestock
Protected Hives
Rabbit Attacks
Aggressive Incidents
Tent Entries
Vehicle Entries

Madonia stressed if you come upon a bear in the woods —or in your yard — “don’t run away."

"If you see the bear, turn around in the opposite direction and just walk away. Tou don’t want to try and incite any type of predatory type of response," Madonia said.

He added this is the time of year when younger males are looking for a place to establish their territory and it’s not uncommon for them to take wrong turns and wind up in a very congested areas. So give them plenty of room if you spot one.

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