A Bear Hunt is not the Answer, Governor Murphy


New Jersey governors have regrettably too often sought to address human-bear conflict using trophy hunters—a technique not recommended by bear-conflict biologists (Matt Arco, “N.J. bear hunt returning soon as Murphy says he will end his ban,” Nov. 10, 2022). Instead, they should be pressing people to adopt “bear-aware” or “bear-smart” techniques as Colorado is doing.

It is not to his credit that Gov. Phil Murphy, who made multiple campaign promises not to hold bear hunts, has just announced that he was issuing an emergency rule to re-start a New Jersey black bear trophy hunt. The Fish and Game Council will soon determine the fate of New Jersey’s bears when they weigh this “emergency” hunt proposal. They should reject it in part because no emergency exists.

Bear trophy hunting does the state no credit, either. If the council goes along with this proposal, New Jersey is likely to see something similar to what happened in 2016, when Pedals, the beloved and famous upright-walking bear (because of injuries to his front paws), was killed by a bow hunter, along with more than 500 New Jersey bears, including tiny cubs. Pedals’ death was anything but humane. Bowhunters leave large numbers of wounded animals. Researchers have found up to 27% of deer shot by archers die slowly rather than from quick, clean kills. And black bears are even more difficult than deer to kill with an arrow because of their massive muscles and heavy bones.

Not only has New Jersey permitted this Robin Hood-era method of using bow and arrows and other weaponry in bear hunting, but it also permits the use of fetid bait piles to lure hungry bruins in for an easy shot. In late summer and fall, bears must gain 3 to 5 pounds per day to survive the entire winter without eating. Thus they are readily drawn to these baits made up of grease, pastries and even chocolate products, which are toxic to bears and other wildlife. What’s more, the use of bait unnaturally increases bear populations and reduces their hibernation times (meaning that bears are awake longer). Bait sites can result in disease transmission (such as rabies) between species, destroy habitats and can lead to lethal attacks on cubs by larger bears or other carnivores. And researchers say that by habituating bears to human foods, these baits increase human-bear conflicts.

Perhaps the governor thought his announcement during the election season would go unnoticed, but that didn’t happen. Bear sightings are no reason to invoke a trophy hunt. More than a dozen peer-reviewed studies from Europe and North American indicate that hunting bears does nothing to resolve human-bear conflicts. A presenter at the recent Human-Bear Conflict Workshop in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, even stated that after a new bear season was implemented in Ontario, Canada, and after hunters killed a significant number of bears, researchers found “no concomitant reduction in [human-bear] interactions or incidents.” In fact, they found the opposite—Ontario’s new bear-hunting season increased human-bear conflicts. This is the kind of research that should inform New Jersey’s wildlife policies.

New Jersey residents should understand that bear hunters aren’t targeting the bears foraging from unsecured garbage cans, easily accessible bird feeders and barbeque grills. Hunters are in the woods trying to land a big trophy over a bait pile, and they are motivated to display mounted bodies or body parts like heads, hides and paws. We know that bear-skin rugs are unacceptable to most Americans, and certainly to two-thirds of New Jersey voters. Last January, a Humane Society of the United States poll found that 76% of Americans disapprove of black bear trophy hunting. Most people, including New Jersey voters, enjoy photographing and viewing black bears, while less than 1% of New Jersey residents hunt—and there are even fewer who hunt bears. Every year, there are millions of interactions with black bears in North America, with very few incidents. Bears tend to avoid people.

We need to resolve human-bear conflicts using sound science, and we humans must adopt common sense behaviors. That means, if you live in bear country, bringing in bird feeders and substituting them with water features or bird houses. It means employing electric fencing around chicken coops and beehives, and ensuring that both pet and farm animal feed are unavailable to bears—either secured in buildings or behind electric fences. It means that farmers should use barns, sheds or electric-fenced pastures to protect their domestic animals. And if you hike, go in a group of three of more, make a lot of noise and carry bear spray.

We urge Gov. Murphy to give the New Jersey wildlife agency the ability to distribute grants to local communities, non profits and other partners sparking innovation and increasing law enforcement. Bears being in people’s back yards is really a people issue and we should focus our resources and energy on this people problem. Trophy hunting has no role to play in mitigating the kind of human-bear conflict characteristic of our state.

Elissa Frankis New Jersey State Director, State Affairs

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12 responses to “A Bear Hunt is not the Answer, Governor Murphy”

  1. Growing human population almost invariably means humans intrude on the habitat of of other species, displacing them and taking their homes. This theft by humans, whether via sprawl, industrial development, or the scramble for resources, results in conflict. We are literally eating and cooking the Earth–very unwise behavior. It is a failure of leadership to kill wildlife for human convenience. We need to get our greed under control.

  2. New Jersey bears are vegetarian
    They don’t eat people or animals
    Please don’t shot them!!
    We took there habitat!!
    They didn’t take ours
    Think about they baby’s and I still think of the bear who walked on his hind legs (like a child)and someone shot him !! Why why would you do that
    God help you! Leave them alone, they don’t hurt you!

  3. Governor P. Murphy promised
    To end Trophy Bear Hunting.
    Don’t give in to Hunters nor The Fish and Game. Animals share the World with humans. Homes being built in their homes. Deal with wildlife properly. Its INHUMANE AND CRUEL. Whether by Guns, Bow & Arrow.
    Disgrace. Human Over population which is happening
    What will you do? Hunt races

  4. STOP calling it a trophy hunt. It’s not. We eat the meat just like we do venison. You lose all credit when you use emotionally charged trigger words,

  5. You clearly haven’t done your research. It is illegal to kill a bear cub in NJ, same as most states. It’s illegal to kill any adult bear in the presence of cubs, same as most states. So, no “tiny cubs” were killed the last time NJ had a bear season. Cubs are not orphaned. Hunting over bait sites gives hunters more time to ensure no cubs are around, only the old bears get targeted and an ethical shot is made. If you don’t want to introduce bears to human food products then it’s easy enough to regulate what is used as bait. Again…many states take this approach.
    Bear spray is illegal in NJ. You can carry a container with .75 oz or less of pepper spray but bear spray comes in 8-9oz cans because only a moron would think .75oz is enough to be effective against a 600 lb animal charging you at 30 mph.
    Also, upwards of 80% of the U.S. population approves of hunting for meat and bear meat is highly valued for it’s nutrition and flavor. It’s interesting that you only reference “trophy hunting” as if there could be no other motivation but I suppose that fits your narrative.

  6. Please stop the bear hunting ,,, build a huge sanctuary ,
    just like they do for other endangered animals . Bears have feelings, they show love to there babies . So please, Gov Murphy ,,, stop the hunts on bears . I know a sanctuary would help many people put there minds at ease . And too bad for the guy next door who wants to kill an innocent bear ,,,,, & won’t be allowed anymore ! If people moved in an area where they knew there were bears around in that area , why didn’t they prepare for them ,,,,,& protect there animals . And as far as there properly goes , I’m sure they could of put up extra heavy duty fences just for bears . Home invasions , there’s all kinds of attractive bars they can put on windows & doors , heavy locks to keep bears from entering homes . Attacks on people, killing people ,,,, why are they in an area where bears are known to roam ? Gov Murphy , please , from the bottom of my heart , please stop the hunts , it isn’t fair , people are to blame for all the ugliness that happened to them , I’m sorry ,,,, there’s so many people in this world of ours that are totally against killing innocent animals for the fun of it , giraffes , lions , tigers & so many more beautiful animals they kill for fun . It should be
    stopped immediately ! It’s horrible , it’s sickening , stop the inhumane killing of all the precious animals God put on this earth ! I understand many people kill deer for food , understandable , but I don’t understand why people kill for fun , please stop it . If we’re over populated with certain animals , there’s much room on certain areas for sanctuaries , where they can be taken well care of & I’m sure the activists would lend a helping hand ,,,, I’m sure other people who love animals would also help knowing in there hearts , the animals are in good hands now & forever . Please ,
    Gov Murphy , stop the killing of bears , where it all fun to them . Please , I’m begging you , STOP this horrible act they do for fun ,,,,, stop all the killing people do for fun , please stop it all !!!!

  7. Nick, Please provide a link to “upwards of 80% of the U.S. population approves of hunting for meat and bear meat is highly valued…..”. I’ll wait.

  8. Mr Murphy (governor)I am absolutely against killing bear, we as a humans taking their place and we should live with them just people should keep garbage can close and keep alerts specially when bears babies around

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