Bear hunt to resume in NJ, Governor Murphy folds in light of his failure

Bear hunt to resume in NJ, Governor Murphy folds in light of his failure
(Julie Sonlin via AP)

Back in 2020 Governor Phil Murphy halted the bear hunt in New Jersey entirely. Prior to a complete halt of the bear hunt, the Murph had stopped the hunting of bears on state land in 2018. In the years since, there have been more and more incidents involving bears. In 2022 alone there have been a couple of high profile incidents, one involving a woman and her dogs getting attacked, and another getting mauled when going to get her mail. There has been so much bear activity that the NJ DEP recently in October sent out a notice about being vigilant due to the increase. On November 10, 2022 Governor Phil Murphy finally conceded defeat and had to admit his policy was a failure. In a jumbled up word salad release, the Murph announced that the bear hunt is making a probable return for one to two weeks this December.

To protect public safety and support a healthy wildlife population, Governor Phil Murphy announced that the New Jersey Fish and Game Council will discuss the approval of the State’s Comprehensive Bear Management Policy (CBBMP) and consider amendments to the Game Code at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, November 15. As a means of reducing the black bear population and dangerous bear-human interactions, the amendments include measures to reintroduce a regulated black bear hunt beginning in December. The Fish and Game Council will also consider additional limitations to a regulated hunt, including prohibitions on the taking of cubs.   

“Since the outset of my Administration, I have promised to ground every difficult decision on the latest science and evidence in order to protect our communities,” said Governor Murphy. “From the data we have analyzed to the stories we have heard from families across the state, it is clear that New Jersey’s black bear population is growing significantly, and nonlethal bear management strategies alone are not enough to mitigate this trend. Every New Jerseyan deserves to live in communities in which their children, families, and property are protected from harm, and while I committed to ending the bear hunt, the data demands that we act now to prevent tragic bear-human interactions. We must responsibly adapt to the population with carefully regulated and strict bear population management strategies to ensure our communities and families are protected from the growing black bear population.”

Since the passing out of contraceptives, putting them on birth control, and teaching the bears abstinence only sex education, Murphy came to the realization that his way did not work. While not failing to make good on his campaign promise, Murphy managed to create havoc in the state, with bear sightings and encounters in towns that have not seen the animals since I can personally recollect hearing about ever, or at least in decades. Congratulations on having a(noter) program of failure, Governor.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) estimates that the black bear population in Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties – where the state’s population is centered – has increased, with estimates nearing 3,000 black bears. Meanwhile, reported black bear incidents, including dangerous human-bear interactions, have also increased. Incidents reported to the DEP from January through October of this year have increased by 237% compared to the same period in 2021. The most concerning of these incidents include: 62 aggressive encounters with humans, 1 human attack, 12 dog attacks, 12 home entries, 15 attempted home entries, 84 instances of property damage exceeding $1,000, and 52 attacks on protected livestock.

The black bear population is projected to grow to more than 4,000 bears in the next two years. In the absence of population control measures, the rate of population growth will compound in future years as a greater number of female bears reproduce, with population reduction standing as the only scientifically sound method of restraining unchecked growth and dispersal.

Dense bear populations can potentially lead to inadequate natural sources of food for the animals and territory for young males. This causes wider dispersion of bears into areas where they can come into conflict with people and increases the risk of bears seeking sources of food such as trash, pet food left outside, seed from bird feeders, agricultural crops, and poultry and livestock.

The actions under consideration would reinstate a Bear Hunting Season for December 5 through December 10 for 2022 to run concurrently with the six-day firearm season for deer. If the 20% population harvest target is not reached, the season will be extended to the following week, December 14 through December 17. Bear hunting will be permitted on state and private lands within designated bear hunting zones.

There will be an opportunity for public comment on the CBBMP and amendments to the Game Code during the Fish and Game Council meeting on Tuesday. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at the New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street.

It’s not a foregone conclusion that there will be a bear hunt, but I highly doubt that the Murph would have hinted at this if he were not committed to making it happen again. The political fallout would be too much. Besides, I can already see the protesters lining up with their petitions to stop the bear hunt that has not even started again. Welcome to oppression animal rights activists.

While the professionals have been talking about this being an issue for quite a while, with Murphy ignoring them and staying committed to not having a bear hunt, I don’t think they’re to thank for the hunt being started up again. We can count on this having to be all about politics and it’s probably that enough of the Murph’s donors or political allies have complained to him about bear activity. There’s no way that Phil Murphy is doing this because it’s the right thing to do. The “follow the science” line is just not going to work here, because he’s been told repeatedly that the path he chose was not the right one. But now he has to back peddle.

Small dogs and old ladies getting eaten by bears is just not a good look.

At the upcoming meeting the direction that the hunt is going to go in is scheduled to be outlined.

During its November 15 meeting, after working closely with the DEP to develop mutually agreeable parameters, the Fish and Game Council will consider implementing strict prohibitions on the taking of cubs under 75 pounds, the taking of adults traveling in family packs with cubs below 75 pounds, and restrictions on the practice of baiting. Should the Fish and Game Council approve the filing, Commissioner LaTourette will sign the Comprehensive Black Bear Management Plan to evidence the DEP’s concurrence with authorization of the hunt under the emergency proposal.

The DEP will also launch a broader Wildlife Management and Public Safety Initiative, which – in addition to a more humane black bear hunt – will include a trash management pilot to advance non-lethal strategies, the expansion of local government planning for deer population control, and protections for exotic species.

I’m not sure what protections for “exotic” species the DEP has in store for any of the mythical creatures that inhabit the Garden State, but I’m all ears to hear about how the Jersey Devil will be able to come out of hiding based on whatever policies they may arrive at. I do vaguely remember in the 90’s when sitting in hunter education class that prohibitions on hunting fallow deer in the state was mentioned, but I can’t find any such regulation now. At least not easily.

Now with Murphy admitting the bear population is a problem, we need him to vist the prohibitions on carry of pistols for permit holders in state forests and while on state land. Not likely, but he’d be hypocritical to not consider it. The bears are such a problem that the situation casued Murphy to eat crow, so clearly lifting the prohibitions has merit beyond the most important argument of constitutionality.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the re-sparking of the bear hunt, we should applaud it. This is one of Murphy’s failures that he’s actually going to own, at least by way of reversing it. All the activists that were whining to former Governor Christie about having the hunt stopped can now go and complain to Murphy for starting it back up again. Just a small splash of what it’s like to be a gun owner in New Jersey. Ignored. However, we’ve got #thescience on our side, the Constitution, and statistics.

A note from Cam: Now that the midterms are over, we need to look ahead to the threats gun owners face in Washington, D.C. and statehouses around the country, as well as support pro-Second Amendment officials and legislation to protect and secure our right to keep and bear arms. If you want real in-depth analysis and exclusive content and wish to support our mission, join BearingArms VIP today and use promo code VIPWEEK to receive 45% off your membership!