No more bear hunts after 2020, Murphy announces
Gov. Phil Murphy, long an opponent of New Jersey's bear hunts, announced Monday this year's would be the last under his administration.
Addressing what he called a "complex issue," Murphy said the New Jersey Fish and Game Council will take up proposed amendment to the state's game code, suspending the bear hunt after the 2020 season and removing the current bear management policy from the code.
It would next develop a new black bear policy, focused on non-lethal management techniques.
"The 2020 bear hunt, already limited to a few days in October and December, will be the last bear hunt under my administration," Murphy said.
Murphy had previously said he opposes the hunt but that his hands were tied because the Fish and Game Council enacted a five-year bear management plan in 2015. He did, however, bar it from state lands over the last few years.
Since bear hunting returned in to New Jersey 2003, more than 4,500 bears have been killed.
Though Murphy spoke of the proposed amendment as if it were a certainty, it's still subject to 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.
But Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, criticized the governor for not ending this year's hunt and said the game code change wouldn't end it next year
“Even though there is a lot of public outcry to end the hunt, the Murphy Administration is still going forward with the hunt," Tittel said. "They are putting out spin and PR by separating the bear hunt from the Game Code. This will not end the bear hunt this year or next year.
His statement continued: "Separating the Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy from the Game Council looks like the administration is doing something when they are actually letting the hunt go forward. They have the ability to stop the hunt or accept our petition (for a DEP rule change) but instead of doing so, they are putting out more spin and trying to avoid responsibility. However, the administration is responsible for the bear hunt happening under their watch.”
He said the change "won’t work and will end doing more damage and killing more bears."
Angi Metler, the executive director of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, said in a written statement the league's Bear Group, “applauds Gov. Murphy’s sentiment to end bear hunts after 2020."
"That said, we are still appealing to Gov. Murphy’s compassion to suspend the 2020 hunt by Executive Order. Next week, bears will be shot with ancient weapons, bows and arrows/muzzleloaders," she wrote.
Brian R. Hackett, New Jersey State Director for the Humane Society, said his group applauds the planned change, but "while it huge victory that the governor has committed to not approving any new bear management plan in 2021, we are still deeply saddened that the 2020 season has not been suspended—sentencing more bears to death for the sake of a trophy—and we strongly urge Gov. Murphy to use his executive authority to save the hundreds of bears and their cubs who will otherwise be killed this year.”