Banning bear hunting on New Jersey’s public lands may have little effect

 Mike Donahue of Stanhope, New Jersey, stands with a 346-pound male bear that he killed as he waits at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area for check-in during last year's bear  hunt.(AP file photo)

Mike Donahue of Stanhope, New Jersey, stands with a 346-pound male bear that he killed as he waits at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area for check-in during last year's bear hunt.(AP file photo)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s’ executive order that puts state-owned lands off limits for this year’s bear hunt got mixed reviews at a meeting of the Fish and Game Council.

Janet Piszar a founder of Public Trust Wildlife Management, a group opposed to the hunt,  said she’s upset that Murphy did not fulfill a campaign promise to completely ban the bear hunt. “When does eliminating land for the bear hunt constitute a ban? Murphy has lost credibility,” she said.

Ed Markowski with the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance said closing state-owned lands to bear hunting could put the public at a greater risk.

“The areas that we have closed are areas that are used by a lot of other New Jersey residents, not just hunters,” said Markowski, “They’re used by bird watchers and hikers and fishermen, people that wouldn’t be going in there hunting and wouldn’t be going in there armed.”

Carole Stanko with the Bureau of Wildlife Management does not expect Murphy’s order will have a big effect on the number of bears that are killed in the hunt because they often wander from the state-owned property onto private land where hunting will still be allowed.

“We’ve already been hearing from hunters that they are approaching private landowners in order to get more properties opened for hunting,” said Stanko, “So this may be a good thing from that perspective in getting more land opened to bear hunting. So we’re not sure how much we’re losing and home much we’re gaining.”

Fish and Game Council chairman Frank Virgilio views the governor’s executive order as an opportunity to bring different groups together to find common ground.

“These groups that at times have been at odds over our bear policy now have an opportunity to work together and reexamine the non-lethal methods that we control wildlife within our policy,” he said.

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