Commissioner holds off on 2005 bear hunt

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:01

    Hunters will have to wait at least three more weeks for state Environmental Commissioner Bradley Campbell’s decision on a 2005 bear hunt. A state game panel last summer proposed a bear season, but Campbell plans to take at least until mid-November before deciding on a six-day hunt that would begin Dec. 5. Campbell gained sweeping authority over a hunt last year when the state Supreme Court settled a dispute between the Department of Environmental Protection and the state Game Council. The court required that a comprehensive plan for dealing with the state’s ever-growing bear population be in place before a hunt could be held. Campbell continues to review a management plan submitted this summer that recommends a hunt as one method to help control the bruins’ numbers. Whatever decision the commissioner makes is likely to generate a lawsuit. Sporting groups, which sued the Department of Environmental Protection last year when Campbell blocked a hunt, are likely to take that route this year if the proposed six-day season does not go forward. Animal rights activists can be expected to turn to the courts to stop a hunt. Bears in New Jersey have made a remarkable rebound since the 1970s, when fewer than 100 remained after nearly being eradicated by 19th century hunters who considered bears vermin. The animals now number in the thousands and have been spotted in all of the state’s 21 counties, but are mainly concentrated in northwestern areas.