Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Activists Blast Bigger Bear Hunt

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Activists Blast Bigger Bear Hunt

Article excerpt

New state rules to expand the annual bear hunt by adding six days in October and broadening the territory to include Wayne and Bloomingdale are under attack by wildlife advocates who say a bigger hunt doesn't equal better management of black bears.

A public hearing on the rules to add an October hunt to the one in December has been scheduled for June 2.

The changes have already drawn criticism from animal welfare groups, who say it needlessly kills bears whose population can be controlled with a better management plan.

Jeff Tittel, the New Jersey director of the Sierra Club, said the management plan needs to encompass greater education efforts, bear aversion therapy, which trains bears to fear humans, and bear- proofing trash cans and other property.

"All we're doing is expanding the hunt without doing anything to manage bears," he said. "To us, whether you have a hunt or not, you have to have a real management plan."

The state Department of Environmental Protection says the rules will slow an increase in the bear population, estimated at 3,500.

"The hunt is one management tool that is necessary for maintaining the population, keeping both the bear population sustainable and healthy, and reducing conflicts with people," agency spokesman Larry Hajna said.

Under changes to the Game Code, which governs the management of the state's black bears, hunters would get six days in October, and six days in December, with a one-bear limit in each hunt. The October hunt would begin in 2016. The December hunt this year will continue as before.

The rules would widen the boundaries for the hunt to encompass Wayne, Bloomingdale and other North Jersey towns; previous hunts took place mostly in areas north of Route 78 and west of Route 287.

The October hunt will allow for archery hunting throughout and muzzle-loading rifles in the last three days.

The state Fish and Game Council is also proposing four more days of hunting after the December hunt if the harvest rate goal of 20 percent has not been met. …

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