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New Jersey approves black bear hunting season, first since 2005

July 23, 2010 | 11:49 am

Bear New Jersey has moved a step closer to having the first black bear hunting season in the state since 2005. On Wednesday, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin approved a comprehensive black bear management policy, which includes a six-day hunting season in December. 

"This science- and fact-based policy recognizes that hunting is an important bear management tool in combination with non-lethal controls of problem bears, public education on coexisting with bears and enforcement of laws to reduce conflicts between bears and people," Martin said in a news release.

The season would run concurrent with the firearm deer hunting season, with specific rules to be set up by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife in coming months.

"Although I respect that some New Jersey residents are opposed to hunting bears, hunting is the only proven and most cost-effective method of wildlife population control and it is utilized successfully by other states with viable bear populations," continued Martin.

The policy also includes public education, research, bear habitat analysis and protection, non-lethal bear management techniques and enhanced efforts to keep human food sources away from bears.

"It is clear that a historical rise in public complaints regarding black bears is correlated with the growing bear population. This public safety issue cannot be ignored," said Martin, who approved the new policy after it was reviewed and unanimously recommended by the State Fish and Game Council.

The bear population in northwestern New Jersey has grown from 500 animals in 1992 to more than 3,400 currently. There has also been an increase in black bear encounters, with 76 of the 1,261 incidents so far this year considered aggressive.

While more than 9,000 comments were received by the Fish and Game Council regarding the new policy, including many that opposed hunting, Martin said that no scientifically proven alternative was presented.

"This is a truly comprehensive new black bear policy that takes advantage of the most current management tools available to us and will properly guide us in managing this most valued wildlife resource," he said.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Black bear. Credit: Steve Hillebrand / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service