New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy doubled down on his support for a regulated bear hunt just hours after an appellate court judge issued an emergency stay temporarily halting the hunt that was set to begin Monday.
The Democrat, who initially promised to end the practice when he ran for governor, cited a 237% increase in reported bear sightings this year when he announced his administration’s plans to reinstate a black bear hunt later this fall.
Murphy responded to a listener’s question on how the state tabulates the black bear population during his monthly call-in show, “Ask Governor Murphy,“ with tri-state NPR affiliates.
“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. “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.”
Murphy did not directly address the emergency stay.
“More importantly, here’s what we do know for sure: The incidents that involve humans and bears are up dramatically this year over last year,” he said.
The emergency stay is a win for animal rights and environmentalist groups, who consider the bear hunt inhumane and politically motivated.
Doris Lin is the legal director for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, one of the organizations challenging the bear hunt in court.
“We are challenging the emergency adoption of the bear hunt,” Lin said. “By calling it an emergency, the state agency was able to get around the usual requirements for adopting a bear hunt. They did not allow for sufficient time for public comments.”
“This stay from the appellate division means that the hunt will not be allowed to go on until there is further action from the court,” Lin said.
The coalition opposing the bear hunt has until 2 p.m. on Friday to submit its legal brief. Then the state Fish and Game Council will have until 4 p.m. on Monday to respond.
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