In case you missed the recent NRAHLF.org article, “New Jersey Governor Bans Bear Hunting on Public Lands,” on Aug. 20 New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy issued an executive order directing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to close all public lands to the state’s October and December 2018 black bear hunting seasons despite the state’s burgeoning bear populations.
The announcement was met with disbelief and condemned by the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), other hunter-conservationist groups and New Jersey hunters and conservationists alike who recognize hunting as a critical wildlife management tool. Referring to the move as reckless, NRA-ILA New Jersey State Director Darin Goens explained it was nothing more than political pandering to animal rights extremists. For perspective, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife estimates that 3,500-plus bears roam the northwest corner of the state alone and reports that black bear populations are present in all 21 counties.
New Jersey Hunters Mobilize As the implications of this hunting ban set in, hunters and elected officials statewide began to weigh in against Governor Murphy’s decision. News 12 reported that hunters in northern Passaic County are urging officials to oppose the restrictions while hunters in West Milford recently attended a council meeting to ask town leaders to pass a resolution opposing Murphy’s ban.
In northwest New Jersey's "bear country,” state Republican Assemblyman Hal Wirths of Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties told NorthJersey.com, “Already the most densely [human] populated state, New Jersey also has the densest bear population in North America. They wander out of the woods and into neighborhoods in search of food and shelter.”
New Jersey State Senator Steven Oroho also denounced Murphy’s plan over concern it could increase the likelihood of human-bear encounters. When the bear hunt was cancelled in 2006, he said sightings of bears in certain neighborhoods became daily occurrences and people were afraid to go outside. In an interview with NorthJersey.com, Oroho said, “This issue is and always will be a serious matter of public safety. It is ironic that when a bear is sighted in urban settings, schools get locked down and multiple police departments respond to tranquilize the bear before relocating it. If safety isn’t an issue, what’s the reason for [such] concern?”
And Michael Inganamort, a councilman in the Morris County community of Chester, fears such growth due to less bear hunting not only will lead to more human-bear interactions but also an imbalanced and less healthy bear population. “A controlled, regulated hunt is an important tool to ensure the bear population in New Jersey remains healthy," Inganamort said.
Because Governor Murphy’s executive order only applies to state lands, the bear hunt still will go forward this fall on private lands. However, New Jersey is very small state, and Murphy’s ban encompasses hunting on nearly 700,000 acres. Much of this land is home to very substantial numbers of black bears.
NRA Awaiting Updates As NRA-ILA’s Goens said in NRA HLF’s initial reporting, “The NRA is a strong supporter of our hunting traditions, and that means conservation and game management based on science, not politics. New Jersey has one of the highest black bear densities in the country, and without hunting, an unchecked bear population is going to be a real threat to the general public as human-bear interactions increase. There really is no excuse for the governor usurping the Fish and Council’s authority on this issue.”
NRA-ILA is closely monitoring the New Jersey situation and will issue more information as this important conservation and public safety issue is addressed.