Bear hunting could return to New Jersey as encounters increase

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the number of reported bear encounters has nearly doubled since last year.

News 12 Staff

Nov 13, 2022, 10:37 PM

Updated 617 days ago


Bear hunting could be returning to New Jersey due to an uptick in encounters.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the number of reported bear encounters has nearly doubled since last year. As early as next month, bear hunting could return.
The DEP statistics show encounters have increased by 237% compared to last year between January and October.
The most concerning of these incidents include attacks on humans and other animals and pets and property damage.
"They really knock a lot of corn down, eat a lot of corn and they'll take anywhere from 5% to 25% of a field. We've seen some fields that have been 70% decimated this year," says Phillip Broadhecker, owner of Broadhecker Farm in Hampton Township. He says that damage to his corn field was at the paws of a bear.
"You can actually go on to Google maps and look at Earth views in the fall of fields and see circles and round spots in fields, and it's astounding how bad it is," Broadhecker says.
Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy canceled bear hunting entirely. However, because of the increase in sightings and encounters, Murphy is reversing his decision and reinstating New Jersey's bear hunt.
For Broadhecker, it's good news for him, his field and his farm animals .
"We've got a lot of livestock that have been killed or injured up here. Goats, chickens, pigs, small horses, even people's dogs," he says.
Broadhecker also says farmers put several hundred dollars per acre into their fields and that amount of damage hurts their bottom line
"You plant that field in the spring, and when you lose 70% of that crop, you're not getting that money back to pay your bills. You have to pay your fertilizer, your seed guy, the fuel -- there's a lot of expense there," Broadhecker says.
While some say bear hunting helps in controlling the population, others say there are more humane ways to accomplish that goal and that's by slowing when bears start having cubs.
Earlier this year, News 12 New Jersey spoke with Angi Metler, of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey.
"The hunt does not reduce the black bear's fertility rate, nor does it prevent incidents with bears," Metler said. "When bears don't have access to unnatural food sources, they can actually start reproducing and having cubs up to the age of 11. In New Jersey, they start having cubs at age two-and-a-half."
According to the DEP the black bear population is projected to grow to more than 4,000 bears in the next two years.
The Fish and Game Council will be introducing a new black bear management policy later this week with new limitations for hunters.

More from News 12