New Jersey Governor Moves To End Controversial Bear Hunting Ban

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Governor Phil Murphy has reversed course after ushering a three-year bear hunting ban in New Jersey. He has now decided to reopen the bear hunting season. Murphy made the announcement this morning while taking listener questions on a local radio show.

According to the New Jersey Herald, black bear hunting in the Garden State could resume as early as December 2022.

“I feel awful,” Murphy said, during the 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.”

Murphy referenced the dramatic rise in bear-human conflicts in rural parts of New Jersey since he instituted his controversial bear hunting ban back in 2018.

In Sussex County, for example, there were 701 black bear incidents reported from January 1 to October 21, 2022. That’s significantly more black bear incidents reported across the entire state from the previous year. During that same period in 2021, 647 incidents occurred, according to the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife.

Sussex County Commissioner Praises News of Bear Hunting Ban Being Lifted

Sussex County Commissioner Chris Carney praised the news. “It is encouraging news that the governor is finally understanding the science and listening to the professionals by agreeing to bring back proven black bear management strategies,” Carney said to the New Jersey Herald. “Unfortunately, delays in this decision have already caused unnecessary and avoidable property damage as well as injuries to pets and people.”

Many wildlife experts believe that New Jersey has the densest black bear population in the country. The population numbers have only risen in the wake of Murphy’s bear hunting ban. Murphy’s ban was a central campaign promise for him when he was first elected in 2017.

Back in September 2021, the New Jersey Fish & Game Council unanimously approved an emergency order that would have reinstated the hunt. They did this because of rising conflicts with bears and swelling population numbers. However, Murphy’s administration refused to sign off on it. That order would have implemented a new October archery season. It also would grant the regular one-week shotgun season in December.

At the time, Murphy was quoted saying: “There will be no bear hunt this year. Period.”

However, it isn’t immediately clear how quickly the Fish & Game Council will be able to re-implement New Jersey’s bear hunting season. But it will be up to Murphy and his Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette to approve and sign the state wildlife agency’s black bear management plan—which they have been unwilling to do over the past several years. According to, Murphy is expected to rescind the executive order that banned bear hunting in the first place, and the Fish & Game Council is slated to meet next week.