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January 28, 2010

New Jersey’s Bears: A Timeline

Will the state's new governor keep bears protected?

The Humane Society of the United States

black bear cub in tree


The safety of New Jersey's bears is uncertain as the possibility of a hunt looms.  Governor Chris Christie must protect our bears.

It is a fact that hunting bears does not reduce conflicts with the animals—actually, it's linked to an increase in conflicts—and does not provide anything but a short-term (not long-term) reduction in the population. No one has ever been killed by a bear in the state's history, and the animals pose an extraordinarily small threat to people. New Jersey's bear hunt would be, and always has been, an exercise in obtaining heads and hides for trophy hunters.

Most conflicts with bears can easily be eliminated simply by making garbage inaccessible.

Read the history of New Jersey's bears below and then, if you live in New Jersey, make a quick, polite phone call to Gov. Christie at 609-292-6000 or e-mail him (we make it easy), asking him to keep our bears protected. There is simply no need for a bear hunt.

1962-70: Due to overhunting and habitat loss, black bears become nearly extinct in New Jersey. Only a handful of bears are thought to remain. In 1970, bear hunting is prohibited.

1990s: Though the black bear population in the state had finally begun to rebound, it was still dangerously small to allow a hunt. Even so, numerous attempts were made to reinstate the bear hunt by hunting groups and the N.J. Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife.

2000: Ten days before it is scheduled to begin, Gov. Christine Todd Whitman cancels a bear hunt scheduled for Sept. 18.

2002: Gov. James McGreevy pledges to support a 5-year moratorium on bear hunting.

2003: Amidst protest, New Jersey initiates its first bear hunt in 33 years. Hunters kill 323 bears, including a mortally wounded cub who stumbled into rush hour traffic.

2004: The Department of Environmental Protection refuses to issue bear hunting permits. Hunting groups sue to force a hunt. The N.J. Supreme Court votes unanimously to cancel the hunt, four days before it is scheduled to begin.

2005: The U.S Dept of the Interior threatens to withhold two million dollars in federal funding if a hunt is not held. The N.J. Supreme Court orders a Bear Management Plan to be written, which includes a hunt. The bear hunt resumes once again. Hunters kill 298 bears.

2006: Gov. Jon Corzine and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson take steps to halt the bear hunt by refusing to sign a Bear Management Plan.

2009: Gov. Chris Christie is elected. It is unknown whether he will take actions to initiate a hunt, but he has voiced support for it. If you live in New Jersey, please act now to help the bears.

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