Yesterday, the New Jersey Fish and Game Council passed a motion to adopt the proposed 2021 Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, including a 2021 hunt, on an emergency basis. This decision was made because the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection has refused to act on the newly updated Policy—which means no hunt for 2021.
The previous Black Bear Management Policy expired, with no action from the Commissioner despite his legal obligation to sign off. New Jersey’s rapidly expanding and growing black bear population is causing high human-bear conflict, including dangerous vehicle strikes, attacks by bears on humans, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of property damage. Without a Management Policy in place, the Council is unable to authorize a black bear hunt in the state.
Regulated hunting is the only way to control the size of the black bear population, reducing incidents of safety issues, home entries, domestic animal deaths, and agricultural or property damage. All of these problems will only continue to increase without immediate action. As the Fish and Game Council put on the record: “No speculation is needed to see where the NJ bear population will go because we’ve been here before. The season was closed for 4 years (2005-2009) … the bear population and bear incidents doubled.”
The Fish and Game Council has done what it can, by adopting the emergency rule. But for the rule to become effective, the Governor must agree that an unmanaged black bear population poses a risk to public safety. Last year, SCI and our partners demonstrated the very real nature of this risk with testimony from expert Dr. John McDonald. But the Governor and his appointed Commissioner have ignored the data. Now the question is: How many attacks and other human-bear conflicts must occur before the Governor realizes a hunt is necessary to ensure that New Jersey’s black bear population does not grow out of control?
While this has immediate implications for residents of New Jersey, it is important for the Governor to hear from hunters and conservationists around the country. Stand with SCI and urge Governor Murphy to sign the emergency action and support proven, effective black bear management!