Sierra Club: Decline in population means bear hunt can end

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TRENTON -

A New Jersey environmental group says the state’s bear hunt should end now that there has been a decline in the bear population.

New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittle says the state should now focus on bear management to control the population.

“Bears are a symbol that we still have wild places in New Jersey,” Tittle says. “That it’s not all subdivisions and strip malls.”

A recent bear activity report by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife shows that the bear population in New Jersey has dropped by 87 percent since 2009. Bear sightings and nuisance complaints have also dropped significantly, according to the agency.

Tittle says that the Sierra Club is not against hunting when it is necessary. But he says that the New Jersey bear hunt should end before it does significant damage to the bear population.

“The fact that the bears came back to New Jersey is important. In the 1970s they ended the hunt because we had fewer than 50 bears in New Jersey,” Tittle says. “New Jersey is a wonderful state with great diversity. It’s got the beaches and the mountains, but the bears are a symbol that New Jersey is full of wild areas.”

Tittle says that the bear population should now be managed and New Jerseyans should learn to co-exist with the animals.

"What people need to do is be educated on how to bear proof property, what to do when a bear is in your area,” says Tittle. "We don't put garbage outside overnight, we have bear-proof containers. We don't put bird feeders on our decks.”

Gov. Phil Murphy has previously said that he aims to end the bear hunt during his term as governor.

A spokesperson for the governor said in a statement, "The governor remains consistent in his opposition to the bear hunt. He has directed DEP to review the available science and consult with the Fish and Game Council in order to pursue changes to the regulations authorizing the bear hunt."

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