New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently called for an end to all bear hunting in New Jersey after the 2020 season. Murphy has already used his executive power to end bear hunting on all public land in the Garden State.
Governor Murphy’s bold statement, “This means, that the 2020 bear hunt… will be the last bear hunt under my administration” is politically motivated, emotionally charged and scientifically flawed.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers believes in science-based wildlife management and preserving the integrity of our hunting and fishing heritage in New Jersey and across North America.
The current ban on public land bear hunting and the proposed ban on all bear hunting not only fails to uphold the robust system of science-based wildlife management, it infringes on the rich heritage of hunting, and flies in the face of common sense resource management. To see the NJ Chapter’s general statement and history of bear hunting in New Jersey, Click Here.
While the “on again, off again” status of NJ’s bear hunt has been frustrating to hunters and those who support hunting, it has also provided us evidence of how bear populations fluctuate when the use of a managed hunt is available as a tool for black bear population control.
New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Bear Activity Reports shows the number of Category I complaints (bears which constitute a threat to life and property) has been reduced since the hunt was reinstated in 2010. In 2010, 236 Category I incidents were reported to DFW. In comparison, only 43 Category I incidents were reported in 2017. The data could not be any clearer… as the bear population grows, the number of bear complaints increases.
The Governor said he wants, “…the Department of Environmental Protection to engage in a thorough and a complete review of current scientific data in developing a new black bear policy that promotes public safety and welfare while protecting important wildlife with a focus on non-lethal management techniques.” (Full NorthJersey.com story Here)
Governor Murphy is not just suggesting the removal of hunting as an effective management tool with no viable replacement but, according to NJDEP management policy reports issued by his own administration, is suggesting the removal of “…the most effective means to control over-abundant game species in a cost-effective manner” (NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife, 2018).
A New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife study, published in 2006, titled An Analysis of the Feasibility of Using Fertility Control to Manage New Jersey Black Bear Populations concluded that fertility control, either chemical or physical, was not a viable tool for bear population control. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reports also point out that during years immediately following a managed bear hunt accompanied by public education, human-bear conflicts declined significantly, whereas human-bear conflicts increased significantly during years immediately following bear hunting moratoria.
A 2015 New Jersey DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Status Report On the Implementation of the 2015 Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy explains the need for a bear hunt in simple terms: “Based on data from the 2006 to 2010 period with no hunting seasons, it is predicted that the current bear population of 2,500 will potentially double by 2022 if the regulated hunt was removed as a management tool from the CBBMP. The highest bear populations estimated thus far were greater than 3,000 bears in both 2010 and 2014. The removal of hunting as a management tool will quickly allow the population to rebound to unacceptable levels.”
Finally, prohibiting bear hunting is bad for bears. When large mammals overpopulate in close proximity to humans, the animals lose every time, one way or another.
We beseech Governor Murphy, DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe and the members of New Jersey Fish and Game Council to support time-tested methods of wildlife management and reject the misguided plan to end the NJ bear hunt.