There will be no last minute reprieve for bears who roam the lands of New Jersey. A State appeals court ruled against a lawsuit filed by animal rights activists on Friday to stop a six-day bear hunt that is set to begin today. It will be the state’s first bear hunt since 2005. Officials claim it is necessary to control the population of black bears in the state, which they say have surged from 500 in 1992 to 3,400 today.
An estimated 7000 permits have been issued for the hunt with a goal to eradicate 300 to 700 bears. Hunters will be limited to killing one black bear of any age, size or gender.
New Jersey State officials say the rising population has led to a spike in complains against the creatures but animal rights organizations disagree.
The Animal Protection League of New Jersey and the Bear Education and Resource Group, who filed the petition to stop the six-day hunt, contend the State’s bear management policy is flawed, and hunts fail to reduce complaints.
The groups have cited statistics showing no recorded deaths or serious injuries due to bear attacks and have called on state officials to adopt non-lethal bear management techniques, as well as greater efforts to keep human food and trash away from the animals.
"The DEP needs to provide non-lethal bear management," said Elaine Dunn, vice president of educational programs for the New Jersey Bear Education and Resource Group "They rarely do educational seminars to teach communities how to coexist with bears. They don’t ticket people for breaking the feeding ban.”
The State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Bob Martin, rejected a stay of the hunt, saying the animal rights groups’ argument is without merit and the hunt is needed due to an increase in bear population and resident’s concern about safety.
Organizations, who successfully blocked the last scheduled bear hunt in 2007, claim the hunt is “payback” to pro-hunting groups that supported Governor Christie’s campaign last year. The groups have also cited an independent investigation by Rutgers University last October that found the state Division of Fish and Wildlife inflated the number of bear-human incidents by duplicating complaints.
Governor Christie and State officials maintain that politics were not involved in the decision and the hunt is needed to control the growing bear population.