N.J. considers renewing bear hunt

Trenton, N.J. (AP) — Supporters and opponents of what would be
the state’s first approved bear hunt in five years weighed in
Tuesday night on rules that would authorize a fall hunting
season.

The Environmental Protection Department and the Fish and Game
Council heard from several groups, including The Humane Society,
the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and other
nature conservation groups during its black bear management policy
hearing.

Groups in support called anti-hunters too emotional and
impractical. Some in the groups against the plan called the hunters
supporting it extreme and bloodthirsty.

“As an outdoorsman, I’m always thrilled to see a bear in my
backyard, but it’s not fun to see a bear on my deck,” said August
Gudmundson, who supports the hunt.

Julie Divine, a northern New Jersey resident, said she had more
reason to fear humans than bears during a hunt season.

“I was so afraid of gunshots, the ricochet gunshots from the
bear hunting,” said a choked-up Divine, who began driving her
children to school when the last state-sanctioned hunting season
opened in 2004.

Sportsmen groups, appearing to outnumber those against hunting
bears, said science-based research supported hunting to reduce
risky human-bear interactions, which wildlife officials say are on
the rise.

Acting Environmental Commissioner Bob Martin in March approved a
plan that includes a hunt, saying research shows the black bear
population is growing. Martin also says the number of serious bear
incidents, including attacks on domestic and farm animals, is on
the rise.

Ed Markowski, former president of the New Jersey State
Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, mentioned the non-lethal methods
that hunt opponents say are underutilized.

“Take away the bird feeders, the backyard grills, and put lids
on the trash cans and you still have done nothing to control the
bears that continue to breed,” he said.

Researchers at East Stroudsburg University estimated the New
Jersey black bear population was 3,438 last year. Bear numbers saw
a 62 percent rise in the state’s bear country, Sussex and Passaic
counties specifically, between 2002 and 2007.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife accounts show complaints of
attacks on livestock and ravaging of crop farms have increased
threefold and fourfold since 2006.

Markowski said at least 75,000 hunters spread out around the
state were deer hunters and that some would be interested in
hunting bears. In years past, he said, the department limited the
number of permits issued to bear hunters. Of the available permits,
slightly more than half were issued, he said.

The Bear Education and Resource Group, which is opposed to all
hunts, is suing the Fish and Game Council. The group alleges the
council violated the Open Public Meeting Act, which requires the
council to allow members of the public to attend its meetings.

Len Wolgast, chairman of the council’s game committee, said all
the council’s regular meetings are open but subcommittee meetings,
including those of the game committee, don’t have to be.

At least two groups – one opposed and one in support of the hunt
– provided bus service to residents from around the state who
wanted to speak during the public comment portion of the
hearing.

Following the hearing, the Fish and Game Council is expected to
consider the comments and submit a final plan for the
commissioner’s approval.

Categories: New York – Steve Piatt

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