A 22-year-old man from Ringwood, New Jersey was charged with the senseless killing of four black bear cubs, according to police.
Police say Matthew Ligus was charged on Tuesday with multiple hunting and firearms violations, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Ligus was charged with hunting with a firearm without a firearm license, and also hunting with an illegal weapon. Ligus also faces charges of hunting during the closed season, using illegal ammunition, and a careless discharge. He also faced an additional charge of hunting within 450 feet of an occupied dwelling.
According to authorities, Ligus shot and killed the cubs at the edge of Ringwood State Park near Ryerson Middle School.
Three of the cubs were located by a hiker on Sunday, near an area off Valley Road, officials said. The fourth cub was later located by state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Police Officers. Officers said they concluded that all four were shot with a rifle by Ligus.
The senseless shooting left the entire Ringwood community shocked, saddened, and ultimately disgusted at the man’s actions. Local resident Breeze Sando commented on the horrific nature of the crimes.
“Everyone I’ve talked to is devastated and heartbroken by this cruel and senseless act,” she said. “As parents, we’re also scared, since the incident occurred near a school and by trails where we take our children to hike.”
New Jersey Governor Calls To End Controversial Black Bear Hunting Ban
Governor Phil Murphy has now reversed course after ushering a three-year bear hunting ban on black bears in New Jersey. However, Murphy has now decided to reopen the bear hunting season. Governor Murphy made the announcement on November 10 while answering listener questions on a local radio show.
According to the New Jersey Herald, black bear hunting in the Garden State could resume even this year, 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 references the steep rise in bear-human conflicts in rural parts of New Jersey since the ban was implemented back in 2018.
For example, in Sussex County, there were 701 black bear incidents reported from January 1 to October 21, 2022. That marks a significant increase in black bear incidents reported across the entire state from the previous year. During that same period of 2021, the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife reported that 647 incidents occurred.
Many wildlife experts believe that New Jersey contains 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 an important campaign promise for him when he was first elected in 2017.