Gov. Murphy wants to reinstate black bear hunt amid spike in sightings

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday that he wants to reinstate New Jersey’s black bear hunt, despite his initial commitment to ending the practice.
“Every community deserves to feel safe. While I committed to end the bear hunt, the data is clear: our black bear population is growing,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “We must change course to prevent tragic bear-human interactions by reinstating a regulated black bear hunt in December.”
Murphy says that the state Fish and Game Council will discuss the approval of the state’s Comprehensive Bear Management Policy at an upcoming meeting scheduled for Nov. 15. The public will be allowed to comment on the plans. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.
State Sen. Steve Oroho has been one of the biggest critics of banning the bear hunt.
“All the statistics have gone up significantly since we haven’t had a hunt,” he says.
The Department of Environmental Protection estimates there are close to 3,000 black bears in Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties. Black bear incidents are up more than 235% compared to last year.
There have been more than 60 aggressive encounters with people, with one person actually being attacked. More than four dozen attacks have been reported on protected livestock and a dozen attacks on dogs.
But former state senator and animal activist Ray Lesniak says a bear hunt is not the answer and that New Jersey should try bear-resistant trash bins.
But Murphy says that nonlethal bear management strategies aren’t enough. But Lesniak isn’t buying it.
“How can they say it’s not enough when they haven’t tried it?” he asks.
Lesniak says he and hundreds of other activists plan to push the idea of nonlethal strategies at Tuesday’s meeting.
If approved, the hunt would resume from Dec. 5 through Dec. 10 to run concurrently with the deer hunt. “If the 20% population harvest target is not reached, the season will be extended to the following week, Dec. 14 through Dec. 17,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
Bear cubs would be off-limits in the upcoming hunt.