NJ adding nonlethal approaches to control bear population
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey will pursue more nonlethal methods to manage the state’s black bear population, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday.
The changes will include better garbage management policies, since the animals are frequently attracted by trash, as well increasing the number of conservation officers and information sessions, the Department of Environmental Protection announced this week.
This year’s hunt is set to start in roughly a month and will be greatly reduced as a result of Murphy’s order to bar black bear hunting on state-owned lands. Murphy’s decision rankled some hunters, sportsmen and conservationists, but cheered environmental groups and animal-rights activists.
It also means that roughly 40 percent of the lands where bears were hunted over the past eight years will be taken offline in this year’s hunt.
Reaction to boosting nonfatal population management tactics has fallen along similar lines to Murphy’s reduction of the hunt.
“Governor Murphy is keeping his commitment to stop bear hunting as much as his administration can without legislative mandates. I applaud his efforts,” said former Democratic state Sen. Ray Lesniak, who authored legislation calling for nonlethal bear control in 2016 before he left the Legislature.
But proponents of the hunt say Murphy’s decision lacks a scientific, evidence-based underpinning.
John Rogalo, the vice president of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, called the latest development a “joke” and said it was motivated by a political agenda.
“After eight years, bears have learned to avoid humans. They behave more like wild animals instead of a barnyard animal that doesn’t fear humans,” Rogalo said. “By stopping the hunt — it’ll take a year or two — you’ll reverse that trend.”
Murphy and the Department of Environmental Protection are committed to nonlethal alternatives to manage the bear population, said Alyana Alfaro, the governor’s spokeswoman, in a statement.
A message left with Murphy’s office seeking a response wasn’t immediately answered.
Murphy said in last year’s campaign he would seek to stop the hunt, though when he restricted this year’s hunt he said he does not have the power to unilaterally call it off.
Murphy said the state Fish and Game Council has sole responsibility for setting hunting regulations and has authorized bear hunting through 2021.
DEP figures show that just over two-fifths of the bears killed over eight years came from state lands. Nearly 45 percent were hunted on private property.
The remainder were killed on federal, county or town property. In some cases property ownership wasn’t clear.
New Jersey restarted regulated bear hunting in 2003 after a pause for nearly three decades. Another hunt was held in 2005. In 2010, under Republican Chris Christie, the state made the hunt annual.
This year’s season opens with a six-day hunt on Oct. 8. A second hunt starts Dec. 3.