New Jersey, the country’s most densely populated state, better known forJersey Shore, shopping, and picturesque seashore resorts, is also home to one of the highest concentration of black bears, and that’s a problem.
The garden state has such a problem with black bears bothering people that it’s doubling down on hunting with an extended season and expanded territory.
“We really need to increase the number of bears harvested so that we see a reduction in incidents. It’s better for the bears.”
New Jersey’s black bear hunting season currently runs six days in December, but hunters have been unable to cull the needed number of bears, so environmental officials are extending the season.
After five years of annual hunting, the New Jersey black bear population sits at 3,600, the same number it had when the hunting began in 2010.
Because the annual hunt hasn’t seemed to dent the bear population, officials proposed a new and different season in October beginning in 2016. In December, the New Jersey black bears are more sluggish and withdrawn as they prepare to hibernate, but in October, they’re still active.
Confrontations between black bears and humans are skyrocketing. Last month, police shot and killed a New Jersey black bear that had broken into a home to eat the owner’s cat food. Last year, the state recorded its first human fatality blamed on a black bear attack when a Rutgers University student was attacked and killed.
That’s why the Department of Environmental Protection’s Fish and Game Council voted to extend the hunting season and expand the geographical area hunters are allowed in. Hunters will now be allowed in much of the state’s forested area.
Hunters will now be allowed to shoot and kill one bear in each season.
Not everyone agrees that hunting black bears is the only solution, however, and animal advocates like the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and the Sierra Club have taken to protesting the decision.
“What DEP is doing is unbearable. Instead of coming up with a real management plan and funding, they are doubling down on the failed policies of the past. Instead of education and dealing with garbage, they are just expanding the hunt, which is just expanding a policy that hasn’t worked.”
Some New Jersey residents have even launched a Facebook page as part of a grassroots PR effort to end the annual hunt.
The decision now goes to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Martin for final approval.