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On Oct. 15, New Jersey Sen. Vin Gopal (D- Monmouth County) sponsored two bills that would politicize the New Jersey black bear management program and shut down bear hunting. Senate Bills 3007 and 3008 would create a moratorium on bear hunting until a new comprehensive bear management plan is in place and mandate that the state’s comprehensive bear management plan be redone each year moving forward. Both bills have been assigned to the Senate Environment and Energy Committee where they await a hearing.

Senate Bill 3007 would mandate that the New Jersey Fish and Game Council do a full update, on an annual basis, of the state’s comprehensive bear management plan. Already, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW) keeps up to date data on the bear population in the state. The Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP) was updated as recently as 2015 and the current policy will sunset in 2021. NJDFW issued an update on the status of the comprehensive bear management plan in January 2018. That report stated:

“A regulated hunting season is a safe, legal, and responsible use of the wildlife resource. It has also been proven to be the most effective means to control over-abundant game species in a cost-effective manner.”

Senate Bill 3008 goes even further and issues an all-out ban on bear hunting until a new comprehensive bear management plan is put in place, as well as mandating the inclusion of non-lethal methods in controlling the bear population. If this legislation becomes law, dangerous and potentially life-threatening bear-human conflicts will skyrocket as the bear population increases.

“Bear hunting is the most cost-effective and only proven method of controlling bears in the state of New Jersey, which has an extremely high density of people and bears,” said Luke Houghton, Sportsmen’s Alliance associate director of state services. “New Jersey has more than 3,500 black bears, which are frequently seen in back yards, neighborhoods and public places like parks. Despite the growing population of bears, anti-hunting groups and anti-hunting legislators have consistently attempted to ban the hunts even though strict controls exist to protect the health of the bear population and for public safety.”

When bear hunting was banned from 2006-09, New Jersey experienced a 100-percent increase in human-bear conflicts compared to years when hunting was permitted. In 2018 alone, there have already been eight aggressive encounters according to the NJDFW Bear Activity Report where a bear was a potential danger to a human.

Additionally, according to a 2018 NJDFW report, “Continued management using all the tools provided in the Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy is critical to maximize public safety, minimize bear-related damages, and maintain a healthy black bear population. Without continuation of population management by regulated sport hunting, NJ’s black bear population will double in five years.”

Despite all of this, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has issued an executive order that bans bear hunting on all public land in order to fulfill a campaign promise at the cost of public safety and responsible bear management.

“These bills are political tools that are being used to enforce Gov. Murphy’s campaign promises to end bear hunting in New Jersey. It is a sad day when a governor cares more about scoring political points than the safety of his citizens,” said Houghton. “It’s left us no choice but to challenge this decision in court.”

On Oct. 4, the Sportsmen’s Alliance, along with the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance and Safari Club International, filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Murphy’s ill-advised closure of state lands to black bear hunting.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research. Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: Online, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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