2021 Bear Hunting Season Canceled in New Jersey: Here’s Why

by Emily Morgan

For the first time in more than ten years, there will be no bear hunt in New Jersey due to a lack of a bear management policy.

The state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife office stated that the Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy required under a 2007 state Supreme Court ruling expired on Wednesday.

“No black bear hunt may occur without a properly-promulgated CBBMP proposed by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council and approved by the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,” the post stated.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy made it a campaign promise to ban the bear hunt when he ran in 2017. In 2018, he banned bear hunting on public lands under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP.) Now, 2021 will see no bear hunting, despite growing bear populations.

Rough estimates indicate that at least 2,500 black bears are roaming the Garden State. Such high bear populations in a densely populated state mean that the bears frequently make contact with humans.

However, things looked much different nearly 50 years ago. There were only about 100 black bears in the state during the ’70s. By 2000, 3,000 bears called New Jersey home.

Ten years later, in 2010, bear hunting was back. Hunters properly removed nearly 400 bears a year. As a result, reported bear conflicts dropped by half thanks to hunting. Now, bear management in New Jersey is as ambivalent as ever.

In the last decade alone, bear hunters in the state have successfully managed the population to keep New Jersey at an ecologically and socially balanced level. Now, that appears to be up in the air.

More Human-Bear Conflicts Expected Due to Lack Of A Bear Hunt

In October of 2020, a black bear roamed around the Red Bulls Stadium in Harrison, New Jersey. That incident came a few days after Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted, “The 2020 bear hunt will be the LAST.”

A later press release stated that his administration would “engage in a thorough review of the current scientific data to develop a new policy that promotes public safety and welfare while protecting New Jersey’s wildlife, with a focus on non-lethal bear-management techniques.”

However, at the same time, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Dept. has repeatedly said that hunting is the only way to control the bear population and reduce incidents related to human-bear contact.

Some hunting experts claim the Governor’s proposed approach of non-lethal bear-management techniques is proven to be ecologically and economically ineffective. New Jersey is home to the densest human population and the second densest bear population in the country.

The state also boasts the second-highest number of human-bear conflicts. Data has shown that hunting is the only way to keep the bear population under control and at a level that keeps humans safe.