New Jersey black bear hunting season begins despite opposition

The first fully regulated bear hunting season began Monday afternoon after two years of being canceled by an executive order passed by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Murphy, who in 2018 signed an executive order stating that black bears should be protected on state-owned lands, approved the reauthorization of the hunt last year to manage the population.
According to his administration, the black bear population significantly has increased since 2021, which has led to 237% more incidents of black bear encounters. This includes 62 aggressive encounters with humans, 89 instances of property damage and attacks on livestock and pets.
Dave Golden, assistant commissioner of New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife said 20 black bears have already been harvested as of Monday morning in North Jersey. In order to reach their population management goals, Golden says they’ve established a 20% harvest goal.
“New Jersey is the most densely populated state, and in some areas, we have the highest bear density in the country,” said Golden. “So, when you have a high bear density and a high human density, you run into a situation where you have a lot of bear-human interactions.”
According to Golden, the last human fatality due to a black bear was almost 10 years ago. The state Department of Environmental Protection’s overall plan aims to not only prevent such an instance from ever occurring again, but also to dramatically decrease potentially dangerous interactions with humans.
“The damage that bears can produce, that are not necessarily human mortality, is something that we need to be concerned about,” said Golden.
However, not all residents are in support of the plan. Former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak has begun a court challenge to the hunt.
“We’re killing bears when there’s no reason to do that,” said Lesniak. “Bears are not dangerous, and they should be able to live in harmony with nature.”
The overall plan also includes aspects of garbage management, education and additional research. Additional changes to regulations also prohibit hunters from taking or killing an adult black bear in the presence of cubs.
If the 20% harvest rate isn’t reached by the end of the second hunt in December, it will be extended by four days. If it is reached prior to that, then the harvest period will end early.
Click here for more information on the 2023 bear hunting season.