Hearing for NJ Bear Management Policy

NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife, Bear Hunting Magazine

Supporters and opponents of what would be the state's first approved bear hunt in five years weighed in Tuesday on rules that would authorize a fall hunting season.

The Environmental Protection Department and the Fish and Game Council heard from several groups, including The Humane Society, the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and other nature conservation groups during its black bear management policy hearing Tuesday night.

Groups in support called anti-hunters too emotional and impractical. Some in the groups against the plan called the hunters supporting it extreme and bloodthirsty.

"As an outdoorsman, I'm always thrilled to see a bear in my backyard, but it's not fun to see a bear on my deck," said August Gudmundson, who supports the hunt.

Julie Divine, a northern New Jersey resident, said she had more reason to fear humans than bears during a hunt season.

"I was so afraid of gunshots, the ricochet gunshots from the bear hunting," said a choked-up Divine, who began driving her children to school when the last state-sanctioned hunting season opened in 2004.

Sportsmen groups, appearing to outnumber those against hunting bears, said science-based research supported hunting to reduce risky human-bear interactions, which wildlife officials say are on the rise.

At least two groups  one opposed and one in support of the hunt  provided bus service to residents from around the state who wanted to speak during the public comment portion of the hearing.

Following the hearing, the Fish and Game Council is expected to consider the comments and submit a final plan for the commissioner's approval.

A public hearing on the Department of Environmental Protection's proposed black bear management policy, a scientifically designed, common sense mix of hunting, education, research and non-lethal bear management tools, is set for Tuesday night, May 11 at the State Museum in Trenton.

Commissioner Bob Martin in March approved the New Jersey Fish and Game Council's 2010 Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, which will be under consideration at the public hearing, which starts at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11. If the proposed policy is approved, it would allow the first bear hunt in the state since 2005.

"Evidence compiled by the DEP shows the black bear population is sustainable and growing,' Commissioner Martin said today. "There has been a marked increase in the number of bear and human encounters, including a doubling of incidents involving bears that exhibit behavior that is an immediate threat to human safety.'

There also has been a marked increase in agricultural damage to farmland and personal property damage caused by black bears.

"The Fish and Game Council incorporated the latest research and science into its proposed black bear management policy," said Commissioner Martin. "It shows an increase in serious bear incidents and supports the need for hunting, in addition to continued non-lethal management tools and public education."

The proposed black bear policy includes penalties for persons who feed bears or lure them into populated areas, public education on co-existing with bears, practical efforts to reduce conflicts between bears and people, a controlled hunt, and more research and monitoring of the bear issue.

A recent black bear population estimate, based on a 2009 study by East Stroudsburg University, showed there are about 3,400 bears in an area north of Route 80 in Morris, Sussex, Warren and Passaic counties. The bear population in this area increased to its current level from an estimate of just 500 bears in 1992. This is the nearly 1,000 square-mile region where a hunt would be sanctioned.

The number of Category 1 bear incidents, involving black bears exhibiting behavior that is an immediate threat to human safety, or causing agricultural damage or severe property damage, increased 96 percent from 2006 to 2009.

In the first four months of 2010, there has been an 82 percent increase in Category 2, or black bear "nuisance' reports, over last year. These are situations that are not a threat to life or property but instances where black bears persistently appear at school buildings, bus stops, playgrounds, campgrounds and restaurants, or repeatedly visit trash dumpsters or neighborhood trash cans that are properly sealed.

DEP Conservation Officers have inspected more than 4,600 residential properties in high bear incident areas and found 98 percent in compliance with black bear garbage management guidelines. This spring, Conservation Officers are focusing enforcement efforts and education outreach on commercial properties in high bear incident areas.

The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a 2005 ruling, said the Fish and Game Council may authorize a black bear hunt only if a hunt is consistent with a comprehensive black bear management policy developed by the Council and approved by the DEP Commissioner. In 2007, the New Jersey Appellate Division required that any comprehensive black bear management policy be adopted in accordance with the New Jersey Administrative Procedure Act.

The proposed 2010 plan was submitted to the Office of Administrative Law and published in the April 19 New Jersey Register. In addition to Tuesday's public hearing, written comments will be accepted through June 18. They can be mailed to Larry Herrighty, Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, Division of Fish and Wildlife, DEP, P.O. Box 400, Trenton, N.J. 08625-0400

At the close of the public comment period, the Council and the Commissioner Martin will review the comments and make a final decision on the policy.

To review the Fish and Game Council's proposed Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, visit:

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