New Jersey will hold a six-day hunt next month to reduce the state's bear population after an increase this year in complaints about problem bears. Bradley M. Campbell, the commissioner of the state's Department of Environmental Protection, said a culling is necessary because “communities are fearful for their safety and the safety of their families.” He said the state received nearly 1,000 complaints so far this year about bears, which he said was up “significantly” from all of last year, when 756 damage and nuisance complaints were filed.
Two bears were killed in August in Sussex County in northwest New Jersey after one broke into a house and another broke into a shed. And, in another case this year, a camper was awakened by a bear but he was able to scare it away. The state's Fish and Game Council, an independent panel whose members are appointed by the governor, approved a hunt earlier this year, but only Mr. Campbell can schedule the bear hunt. Last year, Mr. Campbell blocked a hunt, saying the state would be better off exploring other management tools such as contraception and public awareness campaigns. The State Supreme Court sided with Mr. Campbell and ruled that a hunt could not be held until a comprehensive plan was approved. Now, with the plan approved, the 4,000 hunters who have applied for permits will have a chance to kill black bears with shotguns from Dec. 5 to Dec. 10, provided they pass a safety course. Mr. Campbell noted that the hunt could be called off early if state biologists determined that too many bears have been killed. Though bears have been sighted in all of New Jersey's 21 counties, the hunt will be limited to a 1,600-square-mile area in the northwestern part of the state north of Interstate 78 and west of Interstate 287. In 2003, 328 bears were killed in the state's first bear hunt in 33 years. Last year, Mr. Campbell called a hunt unnecessary, saying the bear population was about 1,600, though several independent studies estimated that the number was closer to 3,200. Earlier this year Mr. Campbell said the bear population was estimated to be between 2,000 to 3,000. Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, an animal rights group based in Darien, Conn., said she was disappointed by Mr. Campbell's decision, especially because Governor-elect Jon S. Corzine opposed a hunt. She said she expects that animal rights groups will go to court to block the hunt and will likely protest once the hunt begins. “It will be high drama,” she said. “It will stir a lot of people up.”
Friends of Animals opposes the offensive bear hunt, and encourages others to non-violently dissent against this killing.
“Support the Right to Arm Bears” Stickers, 2 for $2.00. Available at the Friends of Animals store.