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Political climate change leads to NJ bear hunting

Published July 31. 2010 09:00AM

Although concurrent black bear-deer hunting has been eliminated this year in Pennsylvania, the state's hunters - especially those in the northeast - will be able to extend their bear season in New Jersey.

Yes, after five years of political stonewalling, New Jersey will have a black bear hunting season in December.

Last week, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Bob Martin, announced approval of the state's new Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, which includes a six-day December black bear hunt that coincides with New Jersey's firearm deer hunting season.

"This science- and fact-based policy recognizes that hunting is an important bear management tool in combination with non-lethal controls of problem bears, public education on coexisting with bears and enforcement of laws to reduce conflicts between bears and people," Martin said. "The DEP indicated that the bear population has exploded in New Jersey since 1992 from 500 to over 3,400 today.

"Also, according to DEP reports, there were 1,261 black bear incidents between January 1 and June 20 this year. Of those, 76 were considered aggressive incidents."

It has been a long and winding road for conservation and sportsmen's groups to reestablish a bear hunt in New Jersey.

Leading the fight was the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation with the help of numerous state and national groups supporting scientific wildlife management principles.

"We could not be more pleased with the decision to proceed with a bear hunt in New Jersey," USSAF president and CEO Bud Pidgeon said.

"We have argued for years that science validated the need for a hunt, but the former administration chose to act as a roadblock. Now, science is again in the driver seat like it should be."

Pidgeon said the election of Gov. Chris Christie last year opened the door to a re-examination of the policy.

In 2006, Lisa Jackson, the former DEP commissioner and anti-hunter who is now the Obama administration's head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cancelled the state's bear hunt.

In response to this action, the USSAF, along with Safari Club International and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs filed a lawsuit against the state to challenge the former Commissioner's decision to stop the bear hunt.

The USSAF and others argued that the hunt was adopted based upon recommendations made by wildlife professionals.

Sportsmen also argued that Jackson and then Gov. Jon Corzine, who indicated publicly that he opposed bear hunting, stopped the hunt because it went against their political beliefs, not because of scientific reasoning.

That November, the state Supreme Court refused to consider an emergency injunction that would have compelled the Commissioner to proceed with the 2006 hunt.

In subsequent years, the DEP refused to authorize a bear hunt despite mounting evidence of increased human-bear interactions and multiple calls by state legislators to bring back bear management.

Uncertified bear hunters in New Jersey must attend a NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Bear Hunting Seminars in order to obtain a permit for the bear season. Certifications remain valid for hunters who attended a NJ Bear Hunting Seminar from 2003-06.

This year's bear hunt will be held in portions of a 1,000 square-mile area north of Route 78 and west of Route 287 in Morris, Sussex, Warren and Passaic counties.

The black bear permit application period opens Friday, Oct. 1, and hunters will be able to apply at any license agent or on the division's license website.

More information on the season, bear hunting zones and permits will be in the 2010 Hunting Issue of the Fish and Wildlife Digest, available beginning Monday, Aug. 9, at license agents and the division Web site at

Information on certification seminars is on the Web at

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