FoA says: ‘Christie lies, black bears die’

By Nicole Rivard

“Stop bear baiting, stop bear hating.” “Christie lies, black bears die,” yelled Friends of Animals’ supporters, who were led by Friends of Animals’ campaigns director Edita Birnkrant outside of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christies’ office during a bear hunt protest Thursday morning. Monday, Dec. 8, marks the beginning of New Jersey’s annual bear hunt, which utilizes bear baiting to make it easier for hunters to kill. 

More than 40 people, including members of BEAR Education and Resource Program and the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, lined up on the sidewalk waving signs that read “Christie, where is your humanity?” and “Stop the hunt” as drivers honked their horns in support and gave the thumbs up sign out their windows. A protester in a black bear costume “baited” a life-size cardboard of Christie with vegan donuts donated from Dun-Well’s, to demonstrate how animal advocates and New Jersey residents want to lure Christie into a conversation about ending the slaughter of bears in the state for good.  

“We are not happy to be here, because yet again, in two days, the woods of New Jersey will be filled with armed cowards blasting away at bears who are being baited with donuts and pizza and other junk food,” Birnkrant said during a press conference. “We’ve had enough of this. New Jersey residents have had enough. We want an end to this. We want policies to promote co-existence with bears and to educate New Jersey residents on how to co-exist with bears and how to deter human bear conflict and that’s just not being done in New Jersey. We don’t have sane policies that make that happen.” 

Birnkrant continued, “We are here in front of the state house because it is Gov. Christie who made this hunt happen, who pandered to hunting groups that helped elect him. He is serving the will of one percent and ignoring the 99 percent of people in New Jersey who don’t want this to happen. Since 2005 he has vilified black bears and ignored residents who don’t want bears baited and hunted in December, instead cashing in on campaign promises to pro-hunting groups like the New Jersey Outdoors Alliance, who rallied for his election. Some of you may be aware of the fact that Christie even appointed the group’s president to his Department of Environmental Protection transition team, which addresses hunting policy.”

Birnkrant pointed out how the recent tragedy in which a New Jersey hiker was killed by a black bear demonstrates the lack of education provided to residents about how to act if you are in bear territory or if you encounter a bear. New Jersey residents who live near bear territory also need to know never to leave pet food or birdfeeders outdoors and to use bear resistant garbage cans. 

“It’s really our own behaviors that are causing the conflicts with bears that we then use to justify slaughtering the bears,” Birnkrant said. 

Birnkrant explained that Friends of Animals strongly supports New Jersey’s Bear Smart Bill, S.687, sponsored by NJ Sen. Raymond Lesniak, which would prohibit bear baiting and make it mandatory for residents to use bear-resistant garbage cans—another solution to human-bear encounters state agencies have ignored. Instead they advocate for hunters, who buy licenses from them. 

Birnkrant called upon supporters to flood Christie’s office with phone calls to tell him to stop the hunt and shared his phone number with the crowd.

“This bear hunt is all about injustice, all about trophies,” commented Angi Metler, BEAR director. “Our goal has always been to keep bears away from unnatural food sources, and help bear country residents become bear smart. These objectives are great for public safety but bad for bear hunters. The bear hunt is not about science or safety. When Patrick Carr was asked what is the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s target goal for the bear population, in 2012 he said the goal is whatever the population was in 2000. When pressured he said, ‘I don’t have those numbers handy.’ At the same meeting he was questioned about the life span of a black bear…he didn’t know. When pressured about numbers of black bears in New Jersey all he could do was stumble about study areas. This is the hunter-backed state agency’s top science guy!”

Metler said that science is on the side of bear advocates and that bears are not overpopulated. She is adamant that if Bear Smart legislation is passed, the public will have everything it needs to stay safe.

“I want justice for bears,” Metler said. “I want the bear hunt banned, and all baiting stopped. I want Bear Smart legislation passed immediately.”

Call Governor Christie's office and tell him you want the bear baiting practices and hunt that is allowed in New Jersey to end immediately. Leave a message at 609-292-6000 today.