DEP Gives Permits to Hunt Same Number of Bears as Last Year
The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection is offering 11,000 bear hunting permits this year, with sales beginning on September 10th. On August 20th, Governor Murphy signed an Executive Order banning bear hunting on all state lands, about 700,000 acres. However, this leaves just as much land in county parklands, private lands, water company lands, non-profit lands, and municipal lands where bears can still be hunted on. While running for Governor, Murphy promised to put a moratorium on the bear hunt that was increased under Governor Christie. While this measure still allows hunting, it does make efforts to reduce the number of bears killer by restricting where they can be hunted.
“Despite the ban on hunting bears on state lands, the DEP is giving out the same amount of permits as last year. This means the same number of hunters will be out there looking to kill the same number of bears. We’re concerned that even with the ban, the bear population will continue to be decimated to unsafe population numbers. Another reason for concern comes from the difficulty of enforcing Murphy’s ban on hunting on state lands. A hunter can kill a bear in one place and claim it was killed elsewhere without anyone finding out,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We believe that Governor Murphy does have the authority to fully stop the bear hunt in New Jersey and continue to urge him to keep to his commitment and do so. Otherwise, we’ll see the same devastating number of bears killed this year as we have under the Christie Administration.”
New Jersey used to spend more than $2 million a year on bear management education, that money has been reduced by 90%. Ten years ago New Jersey had bear wardens whose jobs were to manage bears and educate the public. That program has been eliminated. Now only Conservation Officers do that work and there are 40% less of them then there was ten years ago. They not only have to deal with bears, but other species, poachers, and everything else.
“This year’s hunt will have the same number of bears killed as last year, a number that is arbitrary and not conducive with a real bear management plan. We must deal with garbage, educate the public about how to live in bear country, and protect their habitat if we’re going to have stable bear populations There needs to be warning signs in bear country with post 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. These will do a lot more in managing the bear population than having an unnecessary hunt. Protecting our habitat is another important step towards managing our bear population,” said Jeff Tittel. “Each year, New Jersey loses thousands of acres of land in bear country. The more we build houses in the middle of the woods where bears live, the more conflict we will see between bears and humans.”
According to a report by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Bear Activity Report, the number of bears in New Jersey from 2009 to 2018 have dropped by 87 percent. Sightings dropped by 83%, and Damage and Nuisance reports dropped by 86% since 2009. Encounters with aggressive bears tied the lowest total since 2010 with two in 2017. This year, however, four were reported through June 20. Bear hunting in the northwest corner of the state is still on track to continue in 2018. The New Jersey Sierra Club believes that without an actual bear management plan that deals with protection of habitats, garbage, and educating people in bear country, the hunt is meaningless.
“The bear hunt was initiated initially to get rid of aggressive and nuisance bears and the numbers show that they have dropped by 86%. There’s no reason to be killing the same number of bears this year. The main purpose of the hunt is gone and the number of bears has been decimated from the bear hunts. Since 2010 0ver 4,000 bears have been killed from the hunt, car accidents, and put down because they were aggressive bears. We believe the number of bears in New Jersey is much lower than what the Division of Fish and Wildlife say. The numbers of bears have dropped because there are so fewer bears,” said Jeff Tittel.
New Jersey needs to transition from hunting to a real 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 post 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. These will do a lot more in managing the bear population than having an unnecessary hunt.
“Governor Murphy did the first good thing in stopping hunting on state lands but the DEP is still allowing the same number of bears to be killed this year. Instead of a hunt, we need a much better bear education and management program that includes non-lethal tactics. We need to address human-bear interactions by dealing with habitat management and garbage control. Without a real management plan, bears will change from a nuisance bear to an aggressive bear and will be put down. 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,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Murphy Administration committed to stopping the bear hunt and instead having a real management plan and we will hold them to that commitment!”