NJ Gets Bear Season

For the first time in 33 years, New Jersey hunters will have a chance at resident black bears this fall.

Field & Stream Online Editors

By a vote of 8 to 1, New Jersey's Fish and Game Council approved in July a six-day black-bear hunting season for six northern counties this December, in response to an increasing and sometimes marauding bear population of an estimated 1,500 to 3,000 animals. It will be the first in the state since 1970, when the near disappearance of black bears forced a complete closure of the hunting season. Gov. Jim McGreevey opposed a bear season while running for office in 2001, but he will not attempt to block its implementation. A McGreevey spokeswoman said the governor has "personal reservations" but is allowing the hunting season "in the name of public safety."

Such positive developments for hunters, however, are threatened by a state government that is as riddled with antihunting elements as any state's in the union.

Assembly bill A3764, which was still active at press time, would remove recreation and food as legitimate uses of freshwater fish and game animals from the state statutes governing hunting and fishing. It would also add eight seats to the state Fish and Game Council for those with experience "relevant to animal welfare." It would also give the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, a political appointee, control over freshwater fishing and hunting, including the authority to suspend any season deemed to be "not in the public interest."

McGreevey formed the Animal Welfare Task Force in 2002 to "prevent cruelty to New Jersey's animals." He said that the task force wouldn't meddle in wildlife management, but it includes representatives from the Humane Society of the United States, PETA, the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance, and the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting.

Furthermore, political appointees have made no secret of the administration's interest in finding alternatives to hunting for managing wildlife, including wildlife birth control.