Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Last Shots Fired in Bear Hunt

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Last Shots Fired in Bear Hunt

Article excerpt

New Jersey's longest bear-hunting season in recent memory drew to a close Saturday without a clear indication of whether wildlife- management officials had reached their objective of reducing the ursine population by 20 percent.

But with 501 bears shot by hunters as of Saturday morning -- a substantial increase over hunts in recent years -- those officials were satisfied with the result.

"It's definitely a success," Al Ivany, chief of the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Bureau of Information and Education, said of the season. "Certainly, we're doing better and it will help us with our management efforts that we're taking more bears out of the population."

Ivany was standing at a bear-check station near the entrance of the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Fredon on Saturday, which has served as a front line in the heated debate over the state's program for managing human/bear interactions. As was the case numerous times since the hunt opened on Dec. 7, all the players in the issue were present Saturday.

As a handful of successful hunters brought their kills in for an official weighing and inspection, they kept a wary eye on the crowd that gathered across the street -- about 50 protesters who shouted slogans and carried signs blazoned with messages ranging from "This is murder not management" to "DEP cooked numbers!"

Not surprisingly, the protesters' assessment of the hunt varied starkly from that of state officials.

"What I witnessed, I wouldn't wish on anybody," said Jerome Mandel, a 70-year-old Newton resident who said he has protested bear hunts under three governors. "It's a massacre. All this wildlife management is just a euphemism for hunting. And hunting is a euphemism for legalized murder."

Mandel's comments were emblematic of the antipathy many of those assembled felt toward the bear hunt generally, and specifically to new rules put in place by a Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy adopted by the Christie administration in November. That policy broadened the area where hunting can occur and paved the way for a four-day extension to the hunting season if the target number of bears was not reached in the first six days.

This year, an extension was permitted if the number of "tagged" bears brought by hunters to check-in stations was lower than 20 percent of the number of bears in the wild that are known to have been tagged, DEP officials have said.

During the initial hunt, which ended Dec.12, 24 tagged bears were killed, out of 133 that had been tagged during annual bear census events, when wildlife biologists and their assistants go into the woods to search for and tranquilize bears, then either implant microchips in them or tattoo numbers inside their mouths.

Because the 24 killed bears were 18 percent of the tagged bears - - short of the 20 percent goal -- officials extended the hunt. …

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