Black Bears in New Jersey

30 years ago, NJ's black bears were nearly wiped out due to overhunting. Now, the NJ Fish and Game Council wants to start the slaughter again


NJ Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife and the NJ Fish and Game Council

The NJ Division of Fish, Game Wildlife and the NJ Fish and Game Council have control over all of our wildlife. The Council is a quasi-legislative board that has the power to decide what animals can be hunted, the lengths of the hunting seasons, and how many animals each hunter may kill. All members of the Council are hunters. The salaries of Fish and Game employees are paid for from the sale of hunting licenses. They must sell $11,000,000 worth of licenses just to cover their salaries and benefits. To make this money, they allow hunters to slaughter more than 1,000,000 animals each year. The sad truth is that the state agency that should be protecting wildlife instead profits from their slaughter.· Fish and Game, in their 'NJ Black Bear Management Plan' (BBMP), recommends a hunting season for bears.




History of Bears in NJ

In 1971, Fish and Game closed the hunting season on bears because they had been hunted to the point of near extinction. Only 10 animals survived Fish and Game's "management". Black bears are still recovering from this massacre.·




Bear Hunting Not Necessary

Objective VIII of the BBMP gives the option of protecting bears and not allowing a hunting season. Patricia McConnel, Fish and Games' former bear expert, was asked about this at a public hearing dealing with black bears. She stated that it was "biologically viable" to not hunt bears and to allow them to control their own numbers.·



In contrast to an aggressive education campaign, hunting is not an effective approach to resolving human/bear conflicts. Hunting may, in fact, escalate such conflicts. Because of the territorial behavior exhibited by bears, it is biologically impossible for a bear population to overpopulate its habitat. This is one reason why Tom Beck, a black bear expert with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, has stated, "We hunt bears not because we have to, but because we want to."


Destruction of Bear Habitat

Saving habitat suited for bears is critical to the future of these animals. In addition, land already saved must not be manipulated to the detriment of bears. On the Fish and Game owned Flatbrook Wildlife Management Area, in Sussex County, Fish and Game allowed the clear cutting of 150 acres of mature forest. This was done to provide habitat suited for Grouse and Woodcock, which would then provide more hunting opportunities. In doing so, however, they destroyed high quality bear habitat.




Damage Caused by Bears

Damage caused by bears can be drastically reduced by taking some easy precautions. Bear proofing garbage cans alone can solve most of the human/bear interactions. Other forms of damage, such as livestock and beehive losses, happen most often due to poor upkeep of enclosures.

On page 112 of the BBMP it states: "Livestock losses are few, and bird feeder losses, although numerous, can be easily avoided by the landowner."

In Fish and Games' 1992 Bear Research Report, they discuss livestock killed by bears and make the following observation: "None of the livestock was protected by electric fencing." They made the same remarks in their 1985 report about beehives: "In all instances involving beehives, there was either no electric fence, or fences were inoperative."



Opposition to a Bear Hunting Season

For the BBMP, Fish and Game polled 300 residents of areas with high bear populations. Only 15 people were in favor of hunting. 267 people said the population shouldn't even be reduced.



Why We Need Legislation Against Bear Hunting

Since Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Council have complete authority over all our wildlife, and are controlled by those who hunt, or those who are dependent upon hunting, they care little for what the 99% of the people of our state who do not hunt have to say. An example of this is NJ's coyote hunting season.

In February of 1997, against overwhelming opposition, Fish and Game enacted the first ever coyote hunt in our state. This action brought forth such condemnation from the public that Fish and Game biologist Bob Lund, quoted in the Courier Post, said "This is the worst. No question." Faced with the worst public opposition they have ever seen, Fish and Game simply ignored it, and had another coyote hunt the following year.

Fish and Games' reason for this hunt? From the NJ Register, Aug. 19, 1996: "The proposed hunting season will allow for increased recreational use of the coyote resource by New Jersey Sportsmen and women."

This is almost exactly what they have stated they want to do with our bears. Since Fish and Game ignored the overwhelming public opposition to the coyote hunt, we can expect them to do the same with bears.

Robert McDowell, the Director of Fish and Wildlife, made the following statement when questioned about the coyote hunting season: "There have been substantial efforts in the past by the national animal rights/welfare groups to challenge the authority of the Council. They were unsuccessful. You, of course, always have the option to contact legislative representatives on this and any issue you feel requires redress,"

We are following Mr. McDowells' advice. The only way for NJ's bears to be protected is for the state legislature to take the power away from Fish and Game. The Black Bear Protection Act is the only thing that stands between Fish and Game and their senseless slaughter of NJ's bears.