Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement that New Jersey will weigh reintroducing a black bear trophy hunt in December at the Nov. 15 meeting of the New Jersey Fish and Game Council is a shameful betrayal of his promises to the citizens of the Garden State who value wildlife and the environment.

“It’s insane to reinstate a bear trophy hunt. The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results. New Jersey has done nothing since 2018 in terms of systemic nonlethal measures such as prohibiting bird feeders March-November or requiring residents to use bear resistant trash cans, “ said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, a Darien, CT-based animal advocacy organization.

On Thursday, Nov. 10, the Governor’s office issued a statement that it was considering a “20% population harvest target” of black bears. If approved as part of the State’s Comprehensive Bear Management Policy (CBBMP) and amendments to the Game Code, that means the wanton slaughter of as many as 600 bears from the state’s population of 3,000 beginning Dec. 5 through Dec. 10. That is an unconscionable amount of killing.

“The governor claims that he’ll ‘ground every difficult decision on the latest science and evidence,’ but he can’t make the wrong thing right,” said Feral. “If he understood the science or black bear behavior, he’d realize that killing bears will not keep NJ residents, or black bears, safe. Because killing some bears won’t do anything to educate the ones who survive a trophy hunt not to be opportunistic feeders.”

To justify a bear hunt after years of promising to stop the killing of the native mammal, the governor’s announcement claimed that the “rate of population growth will compound in future years as a greater number of female bears reproduce, with population reduction standing as the only scientifically sound method of restraining unchecked growth and dispersal.

“Friends of Animals has been in this fight for a lot longer than Murphy’s been in office, and we know the science doesn’t support hunting as a solution,” Feral said. “In New Jersey, reports showed that bear activity increased in 2011 and 2014 when the state allowed bear hunting. And incidences of bears getting into garbage and bird feeders essentially stayed the same when bears were allowed to be hunted.”

Scientific studies show there is actually a weak correlation between the population of bears and bear attacks. Bear-human conflict is more closely correlated with human behavior, according to The Journal of Wildlife Management. Indeed, some states with large black bear populations have fewer conflicts than states with much smaller bear numbers, a study by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies found. California, for example, which has 35,000 bears, reported just 259 interactions.

“Gov. Murphy is naïve to think a hunter will wonder about the weight of a young bear. No, cubs will be killed and skinned to make rugs for hunters’ bathrooms. It’s despicable,” said Feral. “Fewer than 72,000 people in the state of New Jersey have a paid hunting license, which is less than 1% of the entire population. Murphy is out of step with New Jersey residents.”

Friends of Animals will be on hand to provide public comment on the CBBMP and amendments to the Game Code during the Fish and Game Council meeting on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton.