New Jersey DEP Discusses Possible Bear Hunt
A public hearing on the Department of Environmental Protection's proposed black bear management policy, a scientifically designed, common sense mix of hunting, education, research and non-lethal bear management tools, was held at the State Museum in Trenton, Tuesday night.
Commissioner Bob Martin in March approved the New Jersey Fish and Game Council's 2010 Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, which will be under consideration at the public hearing, which started at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11. If the proposed policy is approved, it would allow the first bear hunt in the state since 2005.
"Evidence compiled by the DEP shows the black bear population is sustainable and growing," Commissioner Martin said today. "There has been a marked increase in the number of bear and human encounters, including a doubling of incidents involving bears that exhibit behavior that is an immediate threat to human safety."
There also has been a marked increase in agricultural damage to farmland and personal property damage caused by black bears.
"The Fish and Game Council incorporated the latest research and science into its proposed black bear management policy," said Commissioner Martin. "It shows an increase in serious bear incidents and supports the need for hunting, in addition to continued non-lethal management tools and public education."
The proposed black bear policy includes penalties for persons who feed bears or lure them into populated areas, public education on co-existing with bears, practical efforts to reduce conflicts between bears and people, a controlled hunt, and more research and monitoring of the bear issue.
A recent black bear population estimate, based on a 2009 study by East Stroudsburg University, showed there are about 3,400 bears in an area north of Route 80 in Morris, Sussex, Warren and Passaic counties. The bear population in this area increased to its current level from an estimate of just 500 bears in 1992. This is the nearly 1,000 square-mile region where a hunt would be sanctioned.
The number of Category 1 bear incidents, involving black bears exhibiting behavior that is an immediate threat to human safety, or causing agricultural damage or severe property damage, increased 96 percent from 2006 to 2009.
In the first four months of 2010, there has been an 82 percent increase in Category 2, or black bear "nuisance" reports, over last year. These are situations that are not a threat to life or property but instances where black bears persistently appear at school buildings, bus stops, playgrounds, campgrounds and restaurants, or repeatedly visit trash dumpsters or neighborhood trash cans that are properly sealed.
DEP Conservation Officers have inspected more than 4,600 residential properties in high bear incident areas and found 98 percent in compliance with black bear garbage management guidelines. This spring, Conservation Officers are focusing enforcement efforts and education outreach on commercial properties in high bear incident areas.
The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a 2005 ruling, said the Fish and Game Council may authorize a black bear hunt only if a hunt is consistent with a comprehensive black bear management policy developed by the Council and approved by the DEP Commissioner. In 2007, the New Jersey Appellate Division required that any comprehensive black bear management policy be adopted in accordance with the New Jersey Administrative Procedure Act.
The proposed 2010 plan was submitted to the Office of Administrative Law and published in the April 19 New Jersey Register. In addition to Tuesday's public hearing, written comments will be accepted through June 18. They can be mailed to Larry Herrighty, Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, Division of Fish and Wildlife, DEP, P.O. Box 400, Trenton, N.J. 08625-0400
At the close of the public comment period, the Council and the Commissioner Martin will review the comments and make a final decision on the policy.
To review the Fish and Game Council's proposed Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, visit: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearpolicy10.htm