Friends of Animals, an international organization with approximately 17,000 New Jersey members, urges the Commissioner to reject this hunt, and to let bear-proofing initiatives work. The key to living with bears isn’t killing; it’s managing human garbage.

Friends of Animals’ bear consultant, Winthrop Staples III, a Wildlife Technician at Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve, advises that bear reduction “is not required, and that denying bears human food has been proved to eliminate most bear-human conflict.” Staples adds that killing bears “is strictly for human convenience, or is cheaper than using bear proof garbage containers.”

Experts say that restricting access to garbage and other human foods “is the obvious and most important step toward solving bear problems” that occur when bears associate people with food. [1] Random killing of bears will not keep surviving bears out of people’s yards if bear associate people with food.

The Commissioner himself has said, “One of the best ways to discourage nuisance bears is by storing garbage properly.” [2] With a state grant, the DEP will purchase bear-proof trash bins for communities in West Milford. Other towns are designated as “controls,” and are denied bear-proofing funds.

On its own, Hardyston Township in Sussex County initiated distribution of bear-proof trash bins. Sussex County Freeholders have passed a resolution, asking the state for bear-proofing funds. [3] But there is virtually no time for these programs to work before the hunt begins.

This common sense approach is highly effective elsewhere. By bear-proofing, education and, when necessary aversive conditions, Yosemite National Park has reduced human-bear incidents by 81% (as of August 2005). Alaska’s Denali National Park and others have similar successful programs. Towns in British Columbia have reduced human-bear conflicts by 75%.[4]

The DEP has not even enforced the state feeding ban. The Department has issued only 6 warnings and two summonses since the law was enacted. In 2005, the Commissioner wrote that unless “substantial” progress was made in such programs, another hunt should not be considered.[5]

Staples cautions that: “The apparent slow pace of getting bear resistant containers in widespread use in New Jersey is practically and morally very disturbing. In plain language, someone is liable to be killed by a bear because the NJ political class is too timid to mandate bear proof containers. This would be an opportune time for public servants to display some strong safeguarding of human food in New Jersey. Even every household could have a few bear-proof containers for the price of a cheap TV set. This does not sound like too much work for responsible citizens.”

The Codey Administration should reject this hunt and do the right thing. New Jersey’s towns want bear-proof bins, and they want them now. The will, and the means, are there.

1 McCullough, D.R. Behavior, Bears and Humans. Wild. Soc. Bull. 10:27-33 (1982).

2 New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. DEP Announces Program to Manage Bear Complaints {17 June 2005}.

3 County of Sussex, Board of Chosen Freeholders. Resolution. (13 Jul 2005).

Gore, Meridith I. Comparison of Intervention Programs Designed to Reduce Human-Bear Conflict: A Review of Literature, HSRU Series No. 04-4 (Mar 2000).

5 Campbell, Bradley M., to Fish and Game Council. (Mar 5 2004).