TRENTON, New Jersey ─Today, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Fish and Game Council reinstated its controversial black bear trophy hunt.
The emergency rulemaking that the council used circumvents standard procedures requiring appropriate notice of the action to the public and the opportunity for public comment on the proposals. By law it may be used only when the public is facing “imminent peril.” Yet, the public is not in “imminent peril” from black bears and the numbers cited by the DFW to suggest otherwise are misleading. Moreover, the logic behind an emergency opening is flawed, because the science is clear that trophy hunting does not reduce bear conflicts, and in fact, may actually exacerbate human-bear conflicts.
According to the state’s own records, between January and October of 2022 bear attacks on humans increased by one, bear attacks on domestic dogs increased by five, and vehicle injuries involving bear strikes increased by four compared to the same window of time in 2021.
But rather than looking at that relatively small number of interactions, the figures cited by the state use the larger increases in much less dangerous types of interactions—including sightings of an injured bear, instances of bears looking for food rewards in trash cans, and seemingly catch-all designations such as “nuisance” and “other” bear interactions—to artificially inflate the threat posed by black bears in the state. This invocation of a supposed “emergency” does nothing to protect the public, but rather needlessly incites fear and excludes public participation in decision-making. This will harm New Jersey’s black bear population for years to come.
Elissa Frank, New Jersey state director for the Humane Society of the United States, stated:
“This proposal to kill 20% of New Jersey’s treasured black bears is nothing more than a state-sanctioned slaughter catering to the less than 1% of individuals who want to trophy hunt bears. It is unacceptable in any form. Bears are highly intelligent, family-oriented and one of New Jersey’s most beloved and iconic species. The most effective way to stop bear conflicts is to provide people with bear-resistant trash cans and educate them about the importance of taking commonsense precautions to avoid attracting bears, like taking down bird feeders and keeping pet and livestock food unavailable—not instituting a futile trophy hunt.”
The council advanced the proposal without empirical data on the status of New Jersey’s black bear population, other than the conjecture that a population of 3,000 individuals is expected to expand by a preposterous 33% in just two years to 4,000 bears. That speculation has no basis in science, because black bears are extremely slow to reproduce.