The Return of New Jersey’s Black Bear Season

Contact: Joe Mullin, Manager, Northeastern States

  • On Tuesday, November 15, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy invoked an emergency rulemaking to enact a Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy – an about-face maneuver from his historic rhetoric on the topic.
  • That same day, the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Council approved the plan, voting in favor of reauthorizing the season.
  • Following sign-offs from both the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Governor, Executive Order No. 310 was effective, reinstating a black bear hunting season that will run from December 5-10
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), in conjunction with the New Jersey Legislative Angling and Hunting Conservation Caucus leadership, have long advocated for the return of the state’s black bear season.

Why It Matters: Fish and wildlife management decisions in New Jersey must be left to the Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Council. Instead, black bears in the Garden State have found themselves at the center of political controversy. For the past several years, the state’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Plan (CBBMP) – a necessary instrument for outlining the many science-based elements that construct a hunting season – has lapsed at the Governor’s order. Since then, incidents involving black bears have more than doubled, leading to the Governor’s recent decision to reauthorize the CBBMP. 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.                                 

On November 10, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a press release that shocked all sportsmen and women. Due to an exploding black bear population and an increase in human-wildlife run-ins, the Governor would be organizing an emergency rulemaking on November 15 to reauthorize a black bear season in the Garden State. Flashing forward to the meeting held this past Tuesday, the Governor enacted a new Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP), which was swiftly approved by the state’s Fish and Game Council. The end result: the return of black bear hunting in New Jersey from December 5-10 of this year.

Black bear hunting has been a contentious topic in New Jersey, as elected officials will run on the platform of promising to eliminate the hunting season. However, science always asserts the truth. In his press release, Governor Murphy conceded that “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.” He continued to state that “Incidents reported to the DEP from January through October of this year have increased by 237% compared to the same period in 2021.”

Arguably the strongest voices within the legislature for the return of the black bear hunting season came from Senator Steven Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space – Co-Chairs of the bipartisan and bicameral New Jersey Legislative Angling and Hunting Conservation Caucus. In a press release, Assemblyman Parker Space stated the following: “Bears have no natural predators, and without hunting, the number of bears could continue to multiply unchecked. This was the right call by the Administration—they looked at the data and common sense prevailed.” The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has long advocated for the return of this season, and it thanks and congratulates the Caucus leaders for their persistence on this matter.

For more details, and to review the regulation changes consistent with the December season, please click the following link

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