Bear hunt reinstated immediately in New Jersey

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey is allowing the state’s bear hunt to commence after opponents appealed its reinstatement.

Black bear in the woods

black bear in Boonton Township, New Jersey. (6abc)

The hunt is on.

New Jersey Superior Court’s Appellate Division lifted a temporary stay on the state’s black bear hunt Tuesday. Shortly after, the state Fish and Game Council announced that the hunting season would begin the same day when check stations open at 4 p.m.

Appellants seeking to stop the hunt, including the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and the Humane Society of the United States, said they were deprived of their right to due process, claiming their experts were not able to review the emergency proposal and submit comments on it. The appellants did acknowledge that they attend a public meeting and provide comment.

The court disagreed. It ruled that though the council rejected the appellants’ comments, they were notified of the hearing and were given the opportunity to be heard.

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The bear hunt, scheduled to end on Saturday, has been a point of controversy. Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on a promise to end bear hunting as a means to control the black bear population.

But Murphy approved reinstating the hunt that included regulation changes approved by the council, citing a dramatic increase in reported bear sightings this year. Opponents argued that the practice is inhumane, arguing instead that better waste management was needed to reduce interactions between bears and humans.

Murphy doubled down on his support to reinstate the bear hunt after the temporary stay was issued last week.

“I was convinced by experts that non-lethal means were sufficient to control the population, those non-lethal means have not worked sufficiently,” Murphy said on WHYY’s Ask Governor Murphy program. “The Department of Environmental Protection and their team are responsible for keeping tabs on the population. It’s possible, you might double count here or there. But the numbers are so overwhelming, it’s not double counting.”

According to an October 2022 report from the Department of Environmental Protection, black bear damage and nuisance reports increased 237% between Jan. 1 and Oct. 21 of this year, compared to the same period in 2021. State biologists projected that the bear population in Northwestern New Jersey would approach or exceed 4,000 bears within two years if immediate measures to control the population weren’t implemented.

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