The Bear Hunt Debate Rages On
Hunting season under way despite strident protests from animal welfare groups
New Jersey's black bear hunting season is under way, infuriating animal rights activists who sought to prevent it from happening.
“This notorious 2nd bear hunt under Chris Christie, and the entire infrastructure of the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, and the Fish & Game Council, do not represent the 99% of NJ residents who abhor the very idea of killing any animal when non-lethal methods are available,” stated Merrilee Cichy, a representative of Keep Life In the Park (K.L.I.P.), in one of a series of protest letters to local news sites.
Though the APLNJ won the right to protest on Monday, the same day the hunt was scheduled to begin, they were powerless to stop it from happening.
Though NJ.com reported on Monday that public turnout was embarrassingly low (only four people showed up to protest according to the article, one of whom carried a sign that read, "Mother nature is crying") Clichy corrected that number in a note to Patch.
"I would say we had approx 25 for the protest yesterday. Some left around 4:30 and others came for the vigil which began at 6," she stated. Still, by midday, 21 bear carcasses had already been hauled into the weighing station. By day's end, 257 bruins had been killed.
Those numbers will undoubtedly grow into the hundreds as a total of 7,862 permits were issued to hunters this year, despite the fact that the state bear population is only estimated to be about 3,400.
This may seem like "overkill" in the purest sense, but proponents of the bear hunt insist they it's necessary for the safety of the human population. Killing several hundred bears per year keeps the bear count at a manageable level and decreases the possibility of dangerous encounters with humans, they say, while ensuring that the surviving bears will have enough food to last them through the winter.
According to NJBearHunt.com: “In the case of black bear hunts, scientific information gathered by the NJDF&W (Division of Fish & Wildlife) then confirmed by studies from East Stroudsburg University and based on actual, documented incidents reported directly by NJ citizens, the majority of NJ citizens understand the need for the culling of the black bear population to a level consistent with the safety of our human population.”
Activists feel differently. "The trophy and frenzied thrill-killing of our black bears has nothing to do with population control or public safety and everything to do with recruiting paying clients," retorted the Animal Protection League of NJ and the BEAR Group in a statement released Monday morning. In fact, the APLNJ and the Bear Education and Resource Group released a report Monday stating that "industry/agency partners" are marketing black bear hunt lotteries to recruit and retain hunters.
“The Bear Group” refuted claims that bears pose a threat to the human population. Moreover, its website claims the NJDF&W refuses to enforce garbage control and then blames bears for nuisance incidents to justify killing them. Measures such as proper garbage storage and bear-resistant trash cans can significantly reduce the number of bear-human interactions, the group says.
Last year, NBC New York reported that dozens of open trash cans were found in New Jersey townships near bear hunting areas, contradicting a report by the Department of Environmental Protection that said 99% of restaurants and stores to use bearproof Dumpsters.
In a New York Times article published yesterday, December 5, Animal Protection League executive director Angi Metler called New Jersey’s Fish and Game Council “a private hunting club masquerading as a state agency.” She was referring to the Gov. Christie's support of the hunt and the estimated 79% of state wildlife employees who are big game hunters.
Q) Can I shoot a female if it is with cubs?
A) Yes, you are encouraged to shoot the first black bear that presents you with a safe shot that will provide a quick clean kill. This is a management hunt and all year classes, male and female black bears are legal to harvest.
Q) Can I shoot a cub?
A) Yes, any sex or size black bear is legal to shoot.
Q) Can I chase a black bear out of a den or off of an open nest to shoot it?
A) No, black bear in dens or on an open nest are not legal to shoot and must be left undisturbed.
A 2010 statewide survey shows the 45% of New Jersey residents voters oppose the bear hunt vs. 35 percent who support it, while 74% of residents support nonlethal methods of solving human-bear conflicts. Public safety, they say, is only a smokescreen for the real game being played, namely "trophy hunting."
“In the 1970s our state’s bear population was virtually wiped out by trophy hunting, thanks to the pro-hunting stance of the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife,” states the The Bear Group website.
Several Save NJ Bears protests and vigils will take place during this week's 6-day hunt.
DAYTIME: Monday through Friday, Dec 5 – 9
Franklin bear weigh station.
Daylight hours and the times will vary.
Call 732-446-6808 for information.
EVENING VIGILS: Monday through Friday, Dec 5 – 9
Franklin bear weigh station, 6pm - 7:30pm.
MAIN PROTEST: Saturday, December 10
12noon - 4pm
The public is invited to attend all events during the six days of protest.