After five years of political stonewalling, New Jersey sportsmen are going to be able to go on a bear hunt.
On July 21, the Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Bob Martin, announced his approval of the state’s new Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy. Part of the management policy will include a six day December black bear hunt that coincides with New Jersey’s firearm deer hunting season.
According to Martin, “This science- and fact-based policy recognizes that hunting is an important bear management tool in combination with non-lethal controls of problem bears, public education on coexisting with bears and enforcement of laws to reduce conflicts between bears and people.”
The DEP indicated that the bear population has exploded in New Jersey since 1992 from 500 to over 3,400 today. Also, according to DEP reports, there were 1,261 black bear incidents between January 1 and June 20 this year. Of those, 76 were considered aggressive incidents.
The road to the bear hunt has been long and winding with the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (USSAF) and numerous other state and national groups involved defending New Jersey sportsmen and scientific wildlife management principles.
“We could not be more pleased with the decision to proceed with a bear hunt in New Jersey,” said Bud Pidgeon, USSAF president and CEO. “We have argued for years that science validated the need for a hunt, but the former Administration chose to act as a roadblock. Now, science is again in the driver seat like it should be.”
In 2006, Lisa Jackson, the former DEP Commissioner and now head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cancelled the state’s bear hunt. In response to this action, the USSAF, along with Safari Club International and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs filed a lawsuit against the state to challenge the former Commissioner’s decision to stop the bear hunt.
The USSAF and others argued that the hunt was adopted based upon recommendations made by wildlife professionals. Sportsmen also argued that Jackson and then Governor Jon Corzine, who indicated publicly that he opposed bear hunting, stopped the hunt because it went against their political beliefs, not because of scientific reasoning.
That November, the state Supreme Court refused to consider an emergency injunction that would have compelled the Commissioner to proceed with the 2006 hunt.
In subsequent years, the DEP refused to authorize a bear hunt despite mounting evidence of increased human-bear interactions and multiple calls by state legislators to bring back bear management.
The election of Governor Chris Christie last year opened the door to a re-examination of the policy.