Monday, September 22, 2008

Bear hunts: Expanding in NY, Frozen in NJ

In New Jersey, the possibility of a renewed bear hunt, like the fellow pictured on the left, is still up a tree.

The strength of the annual controversy surrounding the hunt belies the fact that New Jersey has held only two such events (in 2003 and 2005) over the past 38 years.

Those forays (328 bears were bagged over a single weekend in 2003 and 298 in 2005) caused such a fuss among animal advocate groups that the Department of Environmental Protection, encouraged by Democratic governor Jon Corzine, has blocked all attempts since then (including legal challenges from hunters) to repeat the event.

But calls for a renewed hunt are echoing again this year throughout rural areas in the state's northwest where residents and police report increased numbers of "bear incidents," including the bear who temporarily closed down a high school in Paramus and others who have wandered into back yards, strolled through the drive-through lane at McDonald's and even entered homes in search of food.

The Pocono Record reports that New Jersey wildlife officials have killed 18 bears through Aug. 25, compared with 13 problem bears euthanized for the same period last year.

Reacting to public complaints about troublesome bears, Republican legislators from the heart of bruin country on July 20 issued a letter to state environmental officials demanding the release of population estimates they suggested are being suppressed for political reasons.

Expect the bear-hunt debate volume to rise

What's likely to encourage New Jersey hunt supporters this year is news that the Department of Environmental Conservation in neighboring New York is expanding their bear hunt this year.

The DEC estimates the state's bear population at 7,000, including 2,000 in the southern range that encompasses western New York. Hundreds of bears, according to the DEC, are now living outside what used to be the primary ranges of the Adirondacks, Allegheny and Catskill mountains.

The Black Bear Blog has already noted the difference a state can make in a September 19 post entitled: New York Does What New Jersey Won’t About Bear Problems.

We suspect it won't be the last word on the subject until the bears all head off for hibernation this winter.

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