September 12, 2000
The New Jersey Fish and Game Council passed a resolution to grant a motion for a stay of the black bear hunting season for the Year 2000. This action is consistent with the Governor's request to suspend the black bear hunting season that was scheduled to begin on September 18. A legal challenge to the black bear hunting season was filed by a coalition comprised of animal rights activists, West Milford Township, Sierra Club and several private citizens. As part of the challenge, the petitioners requested a stay of the hunting season. The Council has granted the stay through a 6 to 4 vote at today's public meeting, suspending this year's hunt.
The Governor's request to suspend the season included a plan for increasing efforts to address black bear / human conflicts in New Jersey. The steps outlined in the Governor's plan are expected to provide the increased administrative and financial support necessary to deal with black bear public safety concerns in the immediate future. The Council feels it is important to point out that the Division of Fish and Wildlife has diligently dealt with the black bear problem through research, response and control actions and education with the resources currently Available to perform this work. Up until now, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has been managing black bear conflicts almost entirely with revenue from hunting licenses purchased by New Jersey sportsmen and women. The Governor's plan may allocate more responsibility for managing black bear problems to local municipalities through partnerships with the Division.
The Governor's plan to deal more aggressively with bears that pose a threat to public safety or property by euthanizing these bears after their first offense is expected to help reduce serious conflicts. The assistance of local law enforcement through partnerships with the Division of Fish and Wildlife is an important addition that will improve the overall ability to efficiently deal with problem bears in a timely manner. Furthermore, a stricter policy on euthanizing nuisance bears that return to an area after aversive conditioning will help address the problem of having no places left to relocate problem bears.
Although the Division's black bear education effort has been extensive and recently recognized by an international education program award, we strongly support the Governor's plan to expand public education. Educating the public about coexisting with black bears and their responsibility in learning behavior that minimizes the potential for black bear conflicts is a key element in determining the future of the black bear in New Jersey.
The Council and the Division also welcome the opportunity to continue and expand the black bear research and monitoring that it has conducted over the last two decades. Up to date and scientific data on our black bear population will allow us to make informed and responsible decisions regarding alternatives available to manage the population and its effects on people's lives.
The Council is hopeful that the Governor's plan will help address black bear safety problems in the near future and remove some animals from the population through euthanization. Only time will tell if more aggressive responses to problem bears and an expanded educational and research effort will be sufficient to address the increasing interactions between people and bears that can be expected from increasing human and bear populations.