Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Death Spurs Debate on Hunt

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Death Spurs Debate on Hunt

Article excerpt

The death of a Rutgers student last month in an apparent black bear attack is emerging as a factor in the debate about the controversial December bear hunt, with the West Milford council voting to urge that the state extend the six-day hunting period as opponents argue that the hunt is ineffective.

The council on Wednesday night voted 4-2 to adopt a resolution calling on the state Legislature to "immediately consider legislation which would extend the bear hunting season in New Jersey."

The resolution cites the Sept. 21 death of Darsh Patel, a 22- year-old Edison resident and Rutgers senior who died while hiking in the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford with four friends.

After Patel's body was found, police shot and killed a bear that was said to be lurking nearby, and results of a necropsy, or animal autopsy, released by the state on Oct. 7 revealed the bear was without disease and had blood on its paws and human tissue and hair in its stomach.

For the past four years, the state DEP has held a six-day bear hunt in early December coinciding with deer hunt season. The West Milford resolution doesn't specify how many days longer the hunt should last.

Protesters favoring non-lethal bear population control methods come out in force each year. During the bear hunt in 2010, 592 bears were killed; 251 were killed last year.

Fourteen members of BEAR -- Bear Education and Resource, a program of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey -- attended the meeting and spoke against extending the hunting season, said Elaine Dunn, education program coordinator at BEAR.

"Keeping bears from getting unnatural food sources is a known way to control the bear population and limit the conflict between people and bears," said Dale Jones, bear-proofing coordinator at BEAR and a West Milford resident who attended the meeting. More education and control of human food sources is needed, Jones said.

Mayor Bettina Bieri did not have a vote in the resolution passed on Wednesday, but she said on Thursday that she does not support the resolution. "I believe that this is a knee-jerk reaction to the very unfortunate situation that happened," she said. …

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