After a failed court challenge by animal rights activists, New Jersey state wildlife officials kicked off six days of black bear hunting, in an attempt to address over population. State officials report that 257 bears were slain on Monday (December 5, 2011), which was the first day of the hunt. Animal rights supporters were on hand to protest.
“A bear hunt doesn't solve nuisance complaints, a bear hunt doesn't protect property, a bear hunt doesn't protect public safety and the bear hunt will not reduce the population,” Angi Metler, executive director of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, said on Fox News.
The Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife issued over 6,400 permits, which allow each hunter to kill one black bear during the entire 2011 season. There are four bear hunting areas, which cover 1000 square miles in Northern New Jersey. Last year, 592 black bears were killed during that six-day season. In a news release, state officials insist that the bear hunt reduces attacks and nuisance complaints.
Advocates disagree and assert that the only effective way to control the bear population is to reduce the animal’s already low birthrate by eliminating unnatural food sources. Some activists have alleged that state officials and the gun industry are teaming up to promote hunting as a means of building revenue through hunting permit fees and gun sales. Protesters gathered to raise public awareness at the black bear check station in Franklin, one of five stations where weight and other data of the slain bears are collected.
During yesterday’s protest, there was one arrest. NJ.com reported that Bill Crain, a psychology professor at the City College of New York, was arrested when he ignored police orders to leave the front of the building and move across the road to the designated protest area. Crain wore a sign that read “Mother Nature Is Crying” as police frisked him. The arrest, however, has not deterred other activists.
“I'm not going anywhere. I'm here to protest the state-sanctioned slaughter of our bears," Metler reportedly said.
Animal rights supporters are holding protests throughout the hunting season. Evening vigils are scheduled through Friday. The largest protest is scheduled for Saturday, December 10, the final day of the 2011 bear hunting season. All of the protests will be held at the check station in Franklin.
Photo credit: cc: SXC Massicotte