New Jersey has been talking about reinstating a bear hunt for some time, and it received final approval on Wednesday. The effort to curb the bear population is not dissimilar to other attempts to kill large mammals. The difference is that while ranchers have been a major supporter of wolf hunts under the questionable guise of livestock protection, the New Jersey bear hunt is backed both by recreational hunters and suburbanites. Questioning hunting is a whole separate debate. It’s the suburbanites that are really troubling. People saunter in, knock down a forest or field, and put up energy demanding houses. Somewhere between trying to get the sewer system to handle the sudden over-population of toilets and naming the neighborhood after what used to be there, a bear gets into a trash can, and suddenly the whole thing is the bear’s problem.
Now there will be six days of reckoning in December for the local bruins in northwest New Jersey (originally reports stated that the area would be north of I-78 and west of I-287. Now it seems the hunt will be north of I-80.). The hunt has been approved and supported by Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, even while state biologists predict that the hunt would not actual curb the bear population. The expected birth rate for New Jersey black bears is around 400 cubs, while the last two hunts in 2003 and 2005 yielded 328 kills and 298 kills, respectively.
Just to recap: Approximately 300 bears will be killed in an effort that officials already know will likely not achieve its desired result. Mr. Martin backed the decision saying, “This science and fact-based policy recognizes that hunting is an important bear management tool in combination with non-lethal controls of problem bears, public education on coexisting with bears and enforcement of laws to reduce conflicts between bears and people.” Scientific and fact-based as it may be, the Humane Society believes there are other options, and the Bear Education Resource Group is suing the New Jersey Fish and Game Council on a claim that the council conducted private conferences which violated the Open Public Meeting Act, requiring the council to allow members of the public to attend its meetings.
It will be interesting to see if any injunction is actually ordered, or if the hunt will face the same protest next year. I’m left wondering if at times there shouldn’t be a few more limitations or prerequisites on our inalienable right to travel and takeover where ever we please. Maybe it’s just in our nature to try and push out every other species, but I like to think we can rise above that tendency. As New Jersey residents are overtaking 8,000-10,000 acres of land every year in black bears’ natural territory, if we want bears to survive in any meaningful way, we need to be better and promote non-lethal ways to coexist.
Filed under: animal advocacy, animal law, animal rights, hunting, Uncategorized Tagged: | animal law, animal rights, bears, black bears, Department of Environmental Protection, hunting, New Jersey, over-population, suburbs