Politics Continue to Dictate New Jersey Black Bear Hunt

Contact: Nick Lewis, Mid-Atlantic States Coordinator

Highlights

  • On September 14, the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Council approved an emergency order beginning the process of reinstating the black bear season, though a sign-off would still be needed from the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Governor Phil Murphy for the order to take effect.
  • Unfortunately, Governor Murphy has already publicly stated that he would not be signing the emergency order.
  • Earlier this year, on June 21, New Jersey’s Comprehensive Bear Management Plan lapsed, effectively cancelling the bear hunting season for 2021 and beyond.
  • New Jersey Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs Senator Steve Oroho and Assemblyman Parker Space issued a statement after the lapse, deriding the political decision and calling for immediate action to reinstate the hunt.

Why it Matters:  The New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Council (FWC) manages the state’s fish and wildlife resources on behalf of the Garden State. According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the FWC is responsible for creating and finalizing hunting and fishing regulations, enabling “the professional and scientific management of [the state’s] resources.” The recent action by the FWC on bear hunting reaffirms its position that a black bear hunting season is in the best interest of New Jersey for managing black bear. With this action by the FWC towards reinstatement of the previously planned hunting season, they showed their continued commitment to promoting and advancing polices that celebrate our nation’s time-honored tradition. Overall, bear hunting is an effective and resourceful wildlife management practice, which is why states across the nation rely on hunting to control the bear population and reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

The New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Council (FWC) took action on September 14 that began the process of reinstating the black bear season, following the lapse of the state’s Comprehensive Bear Management Plan this past June. The emergency action would reinstate any pre-planned hunt within 60 days after a final approval, leaving open the possibility for an October archery season. The black bear management plan expired this past summer due to political pressure on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) by Governor Murphy, who is up for re-election this year. Since the emergency order was issued, Governor Murphy has expressed his continued mission to end bear hunting in New Jersey during his tenure, meaning this emergency order will not take effect.

The current black bear population of New Jersey is double that of 2018, currently sitting at an estimated 3,100 bears, causing increased concerns among the general public regarding predator-human conflict. In 2014, a Rutgers student was mauled to death in New Jersey during a hike, and in 2020, a bear had to be euthanized after it had entered multiple homes and ultimately attacked an 82-year old man, leaving him with more than 30 stitches.

The emergency plan approved by the FWC will be unable to take effect with Governor Murphy’s refusal to sign the plan. This action shows the Governor’s continued willingness to put politics over science-based bear management. New Jersey Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs Senator Oroho and Assemblyman Space have already expressed their support for a bear season when the New Jersey Comprehensive Bear Management Plan expired in June.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to engage and provide updates as they are made available.

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