A coalition of twelve organizations including the NJ Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States and The Animal Legal Defense Fund have filed a formal rulemaking petition with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to repeal rules permitting bear hunting and the Department’s Comprehensive Bear Management Policy.
The DEP has 30 days to accept, reject, or petition it out for public comment. The coalition also sent a letter to Governor Murphy asking him to issue an Executive Order to stop the bear hunt.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:
“We are tired of the Governor saying he is on our side to end the bear hunt but still moving forward with the hunt. That’s why we are doing the job Murphy should be doing which is to change the rules of the black bear hunt. That is why we filed this rulemaking petition to DEP to prevent the hunt from going forward. Governor Murphy campaigned to end the bear hunt and yet he is still letting it continue. We are going to keep his promise for him with this petition. If he is really against the hunt, then he would accept our petition to DEP and in the meantime sign an Executive Order to stop the hunt.
“We are doing the job that Governor Murphy should be doing. The bear hunt starts in a few months which is why we filed the petition now to give the administration time to do the rulemaking. By stopping the hunt, it would allow the state to come up with a better management plan that actually manages bears, not just hunting them. The Governor’s plan of prohibiting the hunt on public land is not working and has turned into a private hunt that has caused just as much damage. The state needs to transition from hunting to a real management plan, one that includes strong education and uses warning signs in the region, education materials at trail heads, enforcing not feeding bears, and garbage management. There needs to be warning signs in bear country with posts at all trail heads with Do’s and Don’ts in bear country. We also need to teach people how to bear-proof their property, including the importance of having no garbage at night and bear proof containers. This will help avoid incidents and bear encounters in people’s homes.
“There have been more bear sightings this year, which is no surprise. This year, people have been staying at home during the quarantine, which is leading to more sightings. More importantly, people are cooking and eating at home much more instead of going to the mall to eat, eating at the office, or going out to dinner. Cooking and eating at home more often means more garbage. Bears see garbage as a food source. An abundant supply of trash means that the bear population will increase and bears will become more aggressive as they learn that houses are good places to find food.
“New Jersey’s bear management plan is garbage because it fails to deal with garbage. New Jersey needs to teach people how to bear-proof their properties, including the importance of having no garbage out at night and using bear-proof containers and locked dumpsters. In order to properly manage black bears we need to regulate food sources for the black bears such as garbage. When bears see homes and humans as a source of food this is what creates not only nuisance bears but bear-human conflict. Without a concerted effort to codify and enforce requirements on garbage, other bear policies will fail. The black bear incident in West Milford could have been avoided if residents secured their food better in their homes. It was unfortunate for the resident that was attacked and we hope is well and recovered, however it raises the importance of proper garbage management in bear country.
“The Murphy Administration committed to stopping the bear hunt and instead having a real management plan and we will hold them to that commitment. Without a real management plan, bears will change from a nuisance bear to an aggressive bear and will be put down. This will be an excuse to justify the hunt, even if the hunt takes place in areas where there aren’t nuisance bears. The black bear is a symbol that we still have wild places left in the state and that we haven’t completely given over to sprawl. The Governor’s job is to control Fish and Game, not have them control the agenda for this Administration.”
“The black bear incident in West Milford could have been avoided if residents secured their food better in their homes. It was unfortunate for the resident that was attacked and we hope is well and recovered, however it raises the importance of proper garbage management in bear country.”
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club