Are NJ bear hunts really necessary? A look at the numbers
Last year in New Jersey there were two bear hunts, one in October and a second in December.
The state Division of Fish and Wildlife is planning to do the same this year.
The first segment of the hunt will take place from Oct. 9 to 14, and if a harvest rate of 30 percent of all bears tagged in New Jersey this year is not reached, a second hunt will begin Dec. 4 and go to the 9.
For the entire Segment A in October, Mike Madonia, the State Division of Fish and Wildlife Bear project leader, said bow and arrow can be used, and muzzle loader guns can be used for the final three days of the hunt, while the December hunt will be for muzzle loaders and shotguns.
He wouldn’t speculate what the 30 percent harvest rate will be, because the total number of tagged, handled and released bears in New Jersey during 2017 will be updated until right before the hunt begins.
During last year’s October hunt, 562 bears were killed, and in the second hunt in December the number was 74.
Madonia said two bear hunts are necessary to deal with a population as high as 2,700.
“We’ve had bear sightings in all 21 counties, especially in June when you have your sub-adults looking for a new place to establish their territory. We do have a tendency to have bears where you would never expect to see them.”
He said “bears and people can certainly co-exist in this state but just like deer, they need to be managed. We want people to appreciate the sight when they see a bear, but don’t want them to be considered like a pest or a nuisance.”
Madonia added having such a densely populated state, with people and bears, is a recipe for problems.
“Our ultimate goal is to reduce and stabilize the population at a level that’s commensurate with available habitat that’s out there,” he said.
Doris Lin, the director of legal affairs for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, said a lawsuit has been filed to overturn the state’s bear management policy that includes a bear hunt, but in the meantime “we’re backing Pedal’s Law, that would create a 5-year moratorium on bear hunts.”
Pedals, a beloved bear that used to be seen walking on its hind legs, was shot and killed last year during the bear hunt and state Sen. Ray Lesniak introduced Pedal’s Law shortly afterwards.
“The bear hunt is cruel to the bears. It’s not necessary and it’s dangerous to people. It doesn’t solve anything. The way to solve human-bear conflicts is with non-lethal methods,” said Lin.
“This includes securing your garbage, bird feeders, barbecue grills — that is what keeps bears out of suburban neighborhoods.”
Madonia said after the two hunts in 2016, there’s been a total reduction in bear sightings, damage and nuisance reports of 54 percent this year compared to last.
So far in 2017, up through Aug. 20, there have been a total of 28 serious, category 1 bear reports, compared to 66 during that same period last year, a drop of more than 57 percent.
Category 1 bear incidents include agriculture, attempted home entry, unprovoked dog attacks, human attacks, home entries, livestock kills, property damage, rabbit attacks, aggressive bears, tent entries and vehicle entries.
Category 2 incidents this year have dropped almost 59 percent. They include camp site, provoked dog attacks, garbage, nuisance, property damage, unprotected livestock and hive incidents. There have been 277 this year compared to 672 in 2016.
Category 3 incidents, involving bears and bird feeders, sightings, bears in urban areas, bears found dead or injured and bears hit by vehicles, dropped 49 percent, with 391 reported so far in 2017.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com