By Brett Stayton, Mid-Atlantic States Coordinator
On October 15, two bills aimed at further expanding the prohibitions on bear hunting were introduced in the New Jersey State Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
Senate bill 3007 would require the New Jersey Fish and Game Council to update the state’s comprehensive black bear management policy on an annual basis moving forward. SB 3007 was filed alongside Senate bill 3008, which would implement a moratorium on all bear hunting in the state until a new comprehensive policy on black bear management is implemented. This legislation also explicitly requires the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to study and develop non-lethal methods of population control rather than legal, regulated hunting.
Earlier this year, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife updated the state’s 2015 comprehensive black bear management plan, emphasizing that hunting is a safe and effective management tool. Since then, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued an executive order urging the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to prohibit the hunting of black bears on all state lands under the agency’s jurisdiction, including Wildlife Management Areas. Several members of the New Jersey Angling and Hunting Conservation Caucus have already spoken out against the executive order, which eliminated bear hunting on more than 700,000 acres of previously accessible public hunting grounds.
On October 4, the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, Safari Club International, and the Sportsmen’s Alliance filed a lawsuit challenging the decision to end hunting on state land and legal proceedings are ongoing at this time.
With about 40% of available hunting grounds now off limits to bear hunting, the sale of bear hunting permits declined this year. The state claimed it sold 2,688 permits so far in 2018, compared to almost 4,400 in 2017. This decline in bear hunting permits sales could have a negative impact on funding for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The archery only portion of the New Jersey bear hunting season ran October 8 – 13. With the land available for hunting essentially cut in half, the number of bears harvested by hunters fell from 244 during last year’s 6-day hunting season to 139 bears this year. The firearm portion of the bear season is set for December 3 – 9.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?