The first New Jersey Black Bear hunt since 2005 is scheduled for December. And there are a whole lot of New Jersey citizens — not to mention animal advocacy groups – who do not want it to happen. As with any emotionally charged issue, it’s better to sit back, take a deep breath and honestly evaluate the facts prior to forming an opinion.
In an attempt to do just that, Janet Piszar, President of Bear Education and Resource Group (BEAR), held a press conference last week at the State Capital Building in Trenton. Numerous groups were represented, including the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Dr. Edward Tavss, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University, presented his detailed statistical analysis on black bear nuisance complaints in New Jersey and other states.
His conclusion reads (in part): “The results demonstrate that at every site in which the hunting approach was evaluated no effect in reducing the human complaints/conflicts was observed while at every site in which the non-violent program was evaluated, the non-violent approach was demonstrated to be markedly effective in reducing human complaints/conflicts.”
Citing the West Milford, New Jersey, study, he reported “the facts show when garbage control is initiated, complaints go down.” Dr. Tavss made a point to highlight his approach in his analysis as purely statistical; he has no personal interest in advocating hunting or non-hunting as the solution for New Jersey black bear population control. He says the study speaks for itself.
Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittel’s position can be summed up with his statement: “It’s never been about managing bears, it’s only about hunting bears. The DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) has just about eliminated every program to manage bears in NJ so they can justify the hunt.” He went on to summarize “Until the state deals with garbage — there is no management plan.”
Dr. Stephan Stringham, a well known and highly published Bear Biologist from Alaska, participated via telephone conference. He explained in layman’s terms why black bears are not a threat to humans, even in a densely populated state like New Jersey.
Stringham said black bears are very afraid of people and will not attack unless cornered with no way out. Not even a mother black bear will attack a person in defense of her cubs because her fear of humans is too great. He went on to clarify that it is in fact grizzly bears, not black bears, who will protect their cubs from humans. (Grizzlies are native to the western United States; there are none in New Jersey.)
A legal panel consisting of Doris Lin, Attorney with Animal Protection League of New Jersey, and Walter Leur, attorney for the BEAR Group, detailed why the NJ Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBM) — released in March and recommending a black bear hunt for population control — is the product of illegal meetings. To combat it, BEAR filed a lawsuit, which is moving forward.
Piszar summed it up nicely when she said “A quorum of FCG (Fish and Game Commission) members and other DFW (Division of Fish and Wildlife) staff constructed it, without public attendance and input. It (CBBM) should never have been released to the public for these reasons because it is the product of illegal meetings.”
Last to speak was Angi Metler, Executive Director of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, who reported the Coalition to Protect Black Bears in NJ has grown to over 800,000 members. She presented results of a recent survey done by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc., where they interviewed 625 New Jersey voters on April 7 and April 8 of this year.
State wide opposition to a black bear hunt is reported at 45 percent, support of same is 35 percent, with 20 percent undecided. When asked if non-lethal methods for bear population control in New Jersey should be prioritized, 74 percent agreed, 20 percent disagreed, and 6 percent were unsure. These statistics clearly indicate New Jersey residents do not want black bears hunted. Instead, residents prefer non-lethal methods of dealing with bear complaints.
December is fast approaching. New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie favors the hunt. His office stated his reasoning as “safety and health issues.” So, here’s the question: do you believe black bear hunting in New Jersey is an appropriate way to reduce nuisance reports with humans, or do you believe the statistical analysis presented by Dr. Tavss?
New Jersey residents have until June 18 to make comments — in writing — to the government about the scheduled black bear hunt. You may submit your comments electronically or you can mail your comments to the following:
Division of Fish and Wildlife
Department of Environmental Protection
PO Box 400
Trenton, NJ 08625-0400
It’s imperative that as many New Jersey residents as possible communicate to both Mr. Herrighty and Governor Christie. The governor can be reached at 609-292-6000.
For more info: Activist Spotlight: New Jersey Bear Hunt
photo credit: thanks to jitze via flickr