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October 8, 2010

The HSUS Calls for End to NJ Bear Hunt

New study shows that conflicts with bears have been steadily decreasing

New Jersey officials should cancel a proposed bear hunt based on new information revealed in a study finding that human-bear conflicts have steadily declined in New Jersey since 1999, the year non-lethal management techniques were implemented in the state. The study also found that conflicts were decreasing in 2009, not increasing. Bear hunting has not occurred in New Jersey since 2005.

The report conducted by Edward A. Tavss, Ph.D., a professor at Rutgers University, also reveals that while the New Jersey Fish and Game Council claimed that human-bear conflicts had sharply increased because of an increased bear population, the data used to make this claim appears to be scientifically unacceptable.

The Fish and Game Council sold the hunt to decision-makers and the public as a means to reduce an increasing number of human-bear conflicts, when the truth is that the trend of conflicts is decreasing.

 “A trophy hunt was approved in December based on seriously flawed statistics interpreted by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council,” said Kathy Schatzmann, New Jersey state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “The majority of New Jersey voters oppose a bear hunt, and they deserve factual information instead of inaccurate numbers used to drum up support for trophy hunting.”

The information about human-bear conflicts compiled by the Fish and Game Council incorrectly indicated an increase in human-bear conflicts because the agency appears to have included duplicate records for many of the individual complaints, miscategorized complaints, and included data from additional sources, changing the conditions in the middle of the study.

Tavss states in the conclusion of his study, “There is no justification for implementation of a bear hunt as called for in the current Black Bear Management Policy. The number of complaints is decreasing, not increasing. If an increase in complaints is the justification of a proposed bear hunt in 2010, then the proposal for a hunt should be rejected.”

Background

  • New Jersey implemented a non-lethal bear management program in 1999, including educating residents about avoiding conflicts with bears and distributing bear-resistant trash cans.
  • From 1995 to 1999, before New Jersey implemented the non-lethal program, complaints about bears increased, from about 300 a year in 1995 to nearly 1,700 a year in 1999.
  • After New Jersey implemented non-lethal methods for reducing bear conflicts in 1999, complaints about bears dramatically decreased.
  • Bears have been protected in New Jersey since 1970 with the exception of two hunts, one in 2003 and the other in 2005.
  • According to the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s flawed data that was previously released to the public, complaints about bears increased from about 900 a year to 1,869 between 2007 and 2009.
  • In the study, the researcher examined information from the Division of Fish and Wildlife and removed duplicate complaints and other erroneous data, revealing that complaints actually decreased between 2007 and 2009.
  • According to the report, the Fish and Game Council’s reported surge in bear complaints resulted from an invalid interpretations of data, not from any actual increase in complaints or an increase in the bear population.
  • Tavss previously conducted a study based on information from several states and a Canadian province, which revealed that hunting does not reduce conflicts with bears, while non-lethal strategies are effective at reducing conflicts.
  • An April 2010 poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found that a majority of New Jersey voters oppose opening a bear hunt, and oppose practices that were permitted in the state’s previous two hunts, including shooting 10-month-old cubs, shooting mothers with cubs and baiting bears with food. Voters also overwhelmingly support non-lethal management.
  • Most conflicts with bears can easily be eliminated simply by making garbage and other human food sources inaccessible.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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