Scheduled Black Bear Hunt Faces Opposition

Photo taken on June 4, 2011 in Hope, NJ. Flickr/anaxolotl.

By Michelle Sartor

Animal rights groups are heading to court Tuesday, November 29, in Trenton to challenge a six-day black bear hunt in New Jersey scheduled to be held next week. Last year’s hunt, the first since 2005, resulted in more than 590 black bear deaths.

This year’s hunt is scheduled for Dec. 5-10 and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and Bear Education and Resource Group expect a court decision prior to the hunt. The two environmental groups have filed a lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s black bear management policy.

Those in favor of the hunt say it is a useful tool to control the bear population while many against it say it is inhumane and unnecessary.

Last year, an attempt to stop the bear hunt failed after appellate judges decided the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, the Bear Education and Research Group and two women who had taken legal action to stop the hunt failed to prove the NJDEP’s data justifying the hunt was flawed.

Animal rights activists rallied at the Statehouse in Trenton last December, asking Governor Christie to use his executive authority to cancel the hunt, but he did not.

Those participating in the hunt must have a Black Bear Hunting Area Permit and a valid firearm license. Each hunter is limited to killing one black bear, regardless of how many permits are issued. The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife had a total of 10,000 black bear hunting permits initially available.

There are four zones for the bear hunt, which includes sections of Bergen, Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties. A map of the hunt area with descriptions can be found on the Division of Fish and Wildlife website.

According to the Division of Fish and Wildlife, hunters with the proper permits are allowed to shoot any bears regardless of sex and size, including cubs and those with tags or radio collars. Hunters must stay at least 450 feet from buildings or schools during the hunt unless they have written permission from the landowner.

The state requires hunters to bring their black bears to designated check stations by 7 p.m. on the day of the kill. There are five check stations in three counties that will be open from noon to 7 p.m. during the bear hunt. A full list is available from the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Those who legally kill a bear but cannot bring it to a station by 7 p.m. must call in the kill and bring the animal to a check station the following day.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife reported that 592 black bears were killed during the hunt in 2010. The organization said 60 percent of those were females and 20 percent were considered nuisance bears, including two who had set up a den under decks of homes.

There are still permits available to participate in the 2011 bear hunt. The Division of Fish and Wildlife provides information about the remaining number of permits.