Bear Hunt Done in the Murphy Era After 2020


The 2020 bear hunt will be the last hunt under the administration of Governor Phil Murphy.

“This is a complex isssue,” Murphy acknowledged.

But the governor doesn’t want hunters killing any more bears.

Thus, the New Jerey Fish and Game Council will pass an amendment for a new bear policy following the conclusion of the 2020 season.

“Non-lethal management,” Murphy explained at his press briefing this afternoon at the War Memorial.

“Already limited… this will be the last bear hunt under my administration,” said the governor.

The Nersey Sierra Club chastised Murphy for his statement, noting that the NJ Division of Fish and Game Council proposed amendments to Game Code, N.J.A.C 7:25-5. The proposed 2020-21 Game Code, N.J.A.C. 7:25-5, provides when, under what circumstances, in what location, by what means, and what amounts and numbers, game-birds, game animals and fur-bearing animals may be pursued, taken, killed or had in possession.

“The bear hunt starts next week no matter what the Murphy Administration says. Instead of ending it, the administration is playing games with the Division of Fish and Games. Even though there is a lot of public outcry to end the hunt, the Murphy Administration is still going forward with the hunt. 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,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “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 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.”

Existing N.J.A.C. 7:25-5.6(a) states that there is a season for black bears in accordance with the Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP), included as an appendix to that section of the Game Code. The Council proposes to amend N.J.A.C. 7:25- 5.6(a) to clarify that, pursuant to United States Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation v New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 182 N.J. 461 (2005), the Council may only authorize a black bear hunting season consistent with a current comprehensive policy for the protection and propagation of the black bear population developed by the Council and approved by the Commissioner.

“We petitioned the DEP Commissioner for a rule change that would stop the bear hunt. The Murphy administration said we should not petition the DEP Commissioner even though that is what the law says. The administration said to go to Fish & Game, however the Safari case clearly states that the DEP Commissioner has responsibility over all rules and regulations like the bear hunt. It’s their way of rejecting our petition to stop the hunt and allow a private one to go forward,” said Tittel.“Governor Murphy could sign an Executive Order to stop the hunt or stop killing cubs and baiting bears, but he won’t.”

In August, a coalition of twelve organizations including the NJ Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States and The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a petition with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection under the Administrative Procedures Act to repeal rules permitting bear hunting and the Department’s Comprehensive Bear Management Policy. The coalition also sent a letter to Governor Murphy asking him to issue an Executive Order to stop the bear hunt. By stopping the hunt, it would allow the state to come up with a better management plan that actually manages bears, not just hunting them.

“The new amendments to the CBBMP are just more spin, just like the Governor’s plan of prohibiting the hunt on public land. They both won’t work and will end doing more damage and killing more bears. The state needs to transition from hunting to a real management plan, one that includes strong education and uses warning signs in the region, education materials at trail heads, enforcing not feeding bears, and garbage management. There needs to be warning signs in bear country with posts at all trail heads with Do’s and Don’ts in bear country. We also need to teach people how to bear-proof their property, including the importance of having no garbage at night and bear proof containers.  This will help avoid incidents and bear encounters in people’s homes,” said Tittel.

New Jersey needs to teach people how to bear-proof their properties, including the importance of having no garbage out at night and using bear-proof containers and locked dumpsters. In order to properly manage black bears we need to regulate food sources for the black bears such as garbage. When bears see homes and humans as a source of food this is what creates not only nuisance bears but bear-human conflict.

“There have been more bear sightings this year, which is no surprise. This year, people have been staying at home during the quarantine, which is leading to more sightings. More importantly, people are cooking and eating at home much more instead of going to the mall to eat, eating at the office, or going out to dinner. Cooking and eating at home more often means more garbage. Bears see garbage as a food source. An abundant supply of trash means that the bear population will increase and bears will become more aggressive as they learn that houses are good places to find food,” said Tittel.

In light of the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the need to restrict unnecessary travel and adopt/adhere to social distancing practices, the public hearing will no longer be held live in Trenton. Rather, the hearing will be conducted virtually via the Department’s video conferencing software (Go To Webinar) on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at 2 p.m.

“The Murphy Administration is misrepresenting the facts to go forward with another hunt. What’s even worse is that they still permit baiting and killing bear cubs. Without a real management plan, bears will change from a nuisance bear to an aggressive bear and will be put down. This will be an excuse to justify the hunt, even if the hunt takes place in areas where there aren’t nuisance bears. The black bear is a symbol that we still have wild places left in the state and that we haven’t completely given over to sprawl. The Governor’s job is to control Fish and Game, not have them control the agenda for this Administration,” said Tittel.

Former state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) and former U.S. Senator Bob Torricelli earlier this year asked Murphy to ban this year’s bear hunt.

“A broad coalition of over a dozen state and national organizations has asked Governor Phil Murphy to issue an executive order suspending the upcoming 2020 bear hunt in its entirety on public and private
lands. Protecting the public health of our state demands nothing less.

“Allowing the unpopular trophy shoots this year is inconsistent with all the Governor’s cautious actions and executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s bear slaughter tactics contradict black bear science and worse, attract out of state trophy hunters to New Jersey who are unlikely to quarantine for two weeks. Not only will the 2020 slaughter jeopardize the state’s already overhunted bear population, but it will put all the public at further risk due to the inability to socially distance at weigh stations and protest sites.

“Sadly, New Jersey and Alaska are the only trophy hunting states that allow hunters to kill bear cubs. Thus, New Jersey is a magnet for these hunters from other states, some viral hotspots now, to both
enter our state and partake in the heinous practice of cruelly killing baited cubs.

“Bait and shoots involve close contact between hunters removing dead bears from the field, and between hunters and state officials at black bear hunting check stations – all of this is contrary to the intent of
Governor Murphy’s prior orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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