March 27, 2007
Discussion Topic: Is New Jersey Skewing the Bear Facts?
By Dave Hurteau & Chad Love
By now you know that New Jersey’s new governor and DEP commissioner yanked a hard-won black bear season away from the state’s hunters last year. Now, in their effort to explore non-lethal methods of bear control, the state is disseminating so-called educational material. But some of it smells a little like propaganda.
For example, check out the linked document from the state’s Division of Fish & Wildlife entitled “Questions and Answers About NJ’s Black Bears.” To the question, “Weren't black bear numbers kept low in New Jersey through extensive hunting?” the following answer is given:
No. The population remained small throughout most of the 20th century due to limited amounts of suitable habitat. There were legal hunting seasons for black bear in New Jersey only in the years 1958, and 1962 through 1970. The limited hunting season during those 10 years resulted in only 46 bears being harvested, indicating a relatively small population. This prompted the Division, the Fish and Game Council and the sportsmen of New Jersey to close the season in 1971.
This answer conspicuously omits the fact that during the state’s two recent bear hunts in 2003 and 2005, sportsmen took a whopping 626 bears. What’s more, a chart that follows this excerpt shows that bear complaints went down precipitously immediately following the 2003 season. Yet, in the section that discusses management tools and bear-control options, hunting is not even mentioned.
So what do you think? Are New Jersey wildlife officials giving the public the bear facts—or their own spin on them?