Sierra Club: McCabe Unbearable on Bear Hunt: Another Hunt on the Horizon?

McCabe Unbearable on Bear Hunt: Another Hunt on the Horizon?

During her testimony at the DEP Senate Budget Hearing, Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe did not stick by Governor Murphy’s promise to end the bear hunt. On the contrary, her statements seemed to support keeping the current management plan, including a hunt, in place through 2020. Based on her testimony, it is more than probable there will be a continued bear hunt. This is because she backs the Fish and Game scientists who likely won’t be changing the science to stop the hunt. She then went on to support the idea that bear populations have increased in New Jersey. All of this supports the idea that the Administration is not going to challenge the five-year management plan put in place by Governor Christie that allows for bear hunting.

“Commissioner McCabe defended the Division of Fish and Game Council when it comes to a bear hunt. She stood by the current five-year plan, claiming that it would be difficult to overturn. She also stands by the science of the division who supports the hunt, rather than the real science. It appears that most likely, there will be another bear hunt this year. Governor Murphy should uphold his promise to put a moratorium on the hunt and create sustainable and safe bear management practices,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Not that long ago on a radio show, Murphy once again spoke out against the hunt. It appears that once again, the DEP is going against the Governor. Just like with raiding the Clean Energy Fund and stealing Exxon settlement money, this is one more in the pattern of the Administration saying one thing and doing the opposite.”

According to new data, black bear sightings in New Jersey fell by nearly two-thirds in 2017. These are the lowest levels seen since the early 1980’s, when the species began to rebound. The 2017 black bear hunt has killed 409 bears since October. In 2016, the NJDEP extended the area and time period of the hunt. When the hunt began in 2010, the DEP said there were about 3,500 bears. Last year’s hunt played games with the tagging system and many of the bears killed were cubs and sows. Since the hunt began in 2010, 3,426 bears have been killed.

“While McCabe says she supports the science behind the hunt, the actual science goes against it. The number of nuisance bears has dropped in the past year. We believe this is because of overhunting and don’t believe the DEP is adequately monitoring the population. They say there are 2,500 bears currently but we don’t trust that data. Since 2010, 3,426 bears have been killed. We are very concerned that there may not be any more bears left after this hunt. Despite this report claiming that the hunt is properly regulating black bear numbers, the evidence shows otherwise,” said Jeff Tittel. “There are numerous ways to prevent a bear hunt including an Executive Order setting aside the rule, McCabe could order a reopening to the rule, or budget language could stop the hunt. For example, in 2006 Governor Corzine blocked the hunt. The decision was then upheld in the Court.”

Over a decade ago, we were spending over $2.5 million a year on bear education and now we are spending a tenth of that. Most of the money the state has spent has been on hunting, not a real management plan.  The state has been using hunting instead of a management plan, but in most of the hunts they end of killing the more docile bears that live in the woods.  The aggressive bears tend to be living closer to homes and developed areas.  When they hunt they miss most of the aggressive bears. We need to protect bear habitat by eliminating development in these areas.

“McCabe also called New Jersey’s bear education program ‘very active’ but we know it’s actually woefully inadequate due to various cuts under Christie. We need a much better education and management program that includes non-lethal tactics. 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. If bears start seeing houses as sources of food, we will see more bear human conflict and more problems,” said Jeff Tittel. “We used to use non-lethal tactics like Bear Aversion Therapy to make bears afraid of people by using pepper spray and airhorns. That program has been eliminated and replaced with more arbitrary hunting.”

No action had been taken from the Division of Fish and Wildlife to stop planning for the now-annual October bow and December firearm hunting season for black bear in New Jersey. At an annual session with outdoor writers from around the state in April, division Director Larry Herrighty said no order has been given to stop the hunt, something then-candidate Phil Murphy said he would do once he was elected governor.

“The Murphy Administration committed to stopping the bear hunt and instead having a real management plan and we will hold them to that commitment. 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. This will be an excuse to justify the hunt, even if the hunt takes place in areas where there aren’t nuisance bears. Whether there is a hunt or not, there’s no real management plan in place,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “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. We need Governor Murphy create a real education and keep his commitment to put a moratorium on the hunt.”

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