The controversial New Jersey Black Bear hunt has resulted in 62 of the bears being killed on the first day alone. Opponents of the hunt now plan to sue.
Despite feverous activism and opposition from the public, the New Jersey black bear hunt is on. The season began 30 minutes before sunrise on Monday, according to the state’s NJ.com.
The questionable harvest brought 62 black bears out of the local population. While this is an alarming number for a typically-protected species, it is far from a record for New Jersey. NJ.com points out that “108 bears were killed on the first day of bear season last year”.
New Jersey’s Sussex County saw the most bears brought down this Monday – 29 total. 17 were shot in Morris County. 11 bears were harvested in Warren County, and less from there in neighboring areas.
During the entirety of last year’s season, 315 black bear deaths resulted from the harvest. The record-holding season, 2016, held 636 bears.
Controversial New Jersey Black Bear Hunt Continues
While conservationists are up in arms over a single day of hunting, there is more to come. The seasons lasts through today for bowhunters. From there, “muzzleloaders will also be allowed Thursday through Saturday”.
After this initial round, a second harvest – intended for firearms only – opens December 7th.
Black bears are found throughout New Jersey. Hunting advocates cite the drastic increase in potentially dangerous bear encounters as the reason their state needs a black bear season. Evidence of the dangers they pose are all over local news and social media:
Only eight NJ counties, including Sussex, permit the bear hunts. State lands, however, are illegal territory for bear hunters. This order came from Gov. Phil Murphy just two years ago in 2018.
The resurgence of the black bear hunt is a modern one. Before 2003 – when the bear hunt was restarted – hunting the animals in New Jersey was illegal statewide. Black bear numbers took a horrible crash in the 1970s, and the government and wildlife officials worked together to protect the native species.
Advocates, however, still say the hunt is “the most effective method of controlling the bear population.” In truth, hunting is a vital part of maintaining animals, such as black bears, that benefit greatly from increasing access to human food sources.
NJ.com also notes that a “2018 report from state wildlife officials warned that ending the bear hunt could cause New Jersey’s bear population to double by 2022.”
Opponents of Black Bear Hunt Plan To Sue
While the hunt is on for 2020 regardless, wildlife conservationists and animal rights activists took to the forests and streets to vocalize concerns.
One such opponent is former Democratic state senator Raymond Lesniak. Lesniak is orchestrating Zoom press conferences to gather support. As a result, he is announcing his intent to sue New Jersey state over the hunt. The former senator cites flaws in the “statutory makeup of the state fish and game council” as the crux of his case.
Lesniak isn’t alone in his mission to end the hunt, however. Behind him is a council consisting of 11 members. They are:
“Six sportsmen, recommended by the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, three farmers recommended by the state agriculture convention, the chair of the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Advisory Committee and one person with expertise in land management and soil conservation.”NJ.com
Current Governor Phil Murphy, in fact, took to the campaign trail with a promise to end bear hunting. Murphy is calling for an amendment to the state’s game code – one that would remove current bear management policies.
His biggest adversary in doing so is the New Jersey Fish and Game Council. The council will meet online this week and will discuss the Governor’s proposal.