This fall has been quite eventful for bear hunters and opposers. Previously, in 2018, Governor Phil Murphy banned bear hunting in the state. Just last month, though, Murphy decided to reverse this decision, stating that bear hunting could begin again in New Jersey as early as December 5.
“I feel awful,” Murphy said during a local radio appearance. “But I can’t violate what are obvious facts that are potentially undermining public safety, particularly among kids. I just can’t in good conscience go on in this direction.”
But the controversy has only heightened. Following Murphy’s reversal, New Jersey anti-hunting groups, including the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, the Humane Society of the United States, and Friends of the Animals, immediately sued the state in an effort to halt this season’s hunt. According to former New Jersey legislator Raymond Lezniak, who now supports the anti-hunting effort, these groups believe that bear hunting in New Jersey is “nothing but a trophy hunt…a glamor thing.”
As of November 30, Lezniak and fellow anti-hunting supporters got their wish. State appeals court Judge Lisa Rose issued an emergency stay indefinitely.
Of course, the groups’ efforts aren’t without backlash. Todd Adkins, vice president of government affairs for Sportsmen’s Alliance expressed his frustration with the anti-hunting groups’ latest action.
“Clearly, this is a delaying tactic that will impact the bear hunt and the undeniable need to control exploding bear conflicts. This is, and has been, a matter of public safety,” said Adkins in a press release. “Governor Murphy obviously has the power to protect the public, but animal extremists are only interested in government action that serves their purposes.”
Bear Hunt Supporters Say New Jersey Has More Than Twice the Population It Should
President of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Ed Markowski fears that without maintenance, New Jersey’s bea population will continue to grow out of control.
“How long will it take for these legal briefs to go back and forth and for the judges to make a decision?” Markowski told NJ.com. “It’s not good news for a state that probably has close to 4,000 bears when it should have a population closer to 1,500.”
However, Dante DiPirro, the anti-hunting coalition’s attorney, argued just the opposite.
“The emergency rule is based on an assumption that the bear population is approximately 3,000 and will rise to approximately 4,000 in two years, allegedly necessitating an emergency,” DiPirro wrote in his application for the emergency stay on New Jersey’s bear hunting season. “However, the current bear population has not been scientifically determined. The state has not counted the bears nor conducted a statistically significant valid estimate of the current population.”
Initially, the December 5 start date for New Jersey’s bear hunting season coincided with deer season. The entire bear season would have lasted only six days, giving hunters a chance to help bring down the population just before these creatures hibernate for the winter. It’s possible any bear tags that hunters have already purchased will act as opportunity tags. This means deer hunters can use them to take down a bear if necessary.