The Department of Environmental Protection today announced the state’s black bear hunting season opened this morning just prior to sunrise and will continue through sunset on Saturday, Dec. 10. The season runs concurrently with the six-day firearm deer hunting season.
The first bear taken was a 166-pound female shot in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area by Robert Melber of Apache Junction, Arizona. The second was a 205-pound male taken in Independence, Warren County, by two teenagers from Wayne, Jimmy Colazzo and K.C. Abel.
The hunt is being held to reduce an overpopulation of black bears in the northwestern part of New Jersey. This area has experienced a rising number of public complaints in recent years due to bear-human encounters. Bear-human encounters in adjoining suburban and urban communities have also been on the rise, requiring local police and Division of Fish and Wildlife interventions.
“We anticipate a safe, controlled and professionally managed black bear hunt, which is just one component of our state Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP),” said Commissioner Martin. “The overall goal is to reduce the number of bears to a more manageable number, while improving public safety by reducing bear encounters with people. It is our duty and responsibility to properly manage the bear population.”
DEP biologists predict a harvest similar to 2010, when 592 bears were harvested.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife is seeking to stabilize and reduce the state’s black bear population, to eventually be maintained at a density that minimizes human/bear conflicts, provides for a sustainable population within suitable bear habitat, and minimizes movement of bears to unsuitable habitat in suburban and urban areas.
In addition to hunting, the black bear policy includes public education, research, bear habitat analysis and protection, non-lethal bear management techniques, partnerships with local police and animal control officers, and enhanced efforts to keep human food sources, especially household trash, away from bears to limit bear-human encounters.
The New Jersey Fish and Game Council cited increasing damage to personal property and threats to public safety as key reasons for its decision to recommend a hunt as part of the state’s bear management strategy in 2010.
The Appellate Division of Superior Court on Thursday upheld the validity of the CBBMP, including the research and facts used to create the policy.
The DEP has offered to allow protestors to stage at the Pequest and Whittingham Wildlife Management Areas. The Appellate Division of Superior Court today was hearing arguments from the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, which wants to hold protests at the check station in Franklin, Sussex County. The DEP and local police feel highway conditions and lack of sufficient parking make this location unsafe for protests.
North Jersey has a robust bear population, with scientifically calculated estimates showing some 3,400 bears living in the hunting area north of Route 78 and west of Route 287. There are also an uncounted number of black bears elsewhere in the state, with bears spotted in every county in New Jersey.
Bear hunting is taking place in portions of a 1,000-square-mile area north of Route 78 and West of Route 287. This area is divided into four Bear Management Zones, including portions of Bergen, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties, which are home to the majority of the state’s black bears.
The hunt is open only to licensed hunters with approved permits to hunt in one of the designated zones. Only one bear of either sex may be taken by each hunter. All harvested bears must be taken to one of five approved bear-check stations to be recorded and for biological testing.
Information on the numbers of bears harvested today will be posted on line at www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/ as soon as possible after the 7 p.m. closing of the five check stations. On subsequent days, postings will occur by 8 a.m. the following morning.