N.J. court allows black bear hunt to begin Monday

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said, "There are a large number of black bears in New Jersey, especially in the north, which have resulted in too many bear and human encounters, more property damage, and subsequent public complaints."
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said, "There are a large number of black bears in New Jersey, especially in the north, which have resulted in too many bear and human encounters, more property damage, and subsequent public complaints." (BONNIE WELLER / Staff photographer, file)
Posted: December 02, 2011

A New Jersey appellate court ruled Thursday that state game officials followed proper protocols in establishing an annual black bear hunt, paving the way for hunters to take to the woods when the season opens Monday.

The annual hunt, designed to thin the state's estimated 3,400-bear population, has aroused anger among animal-rights activists, who argue that recent run-ins between people and bears are the result of poor human habits, not bear overpopulation.

In northwestern New Jersey, there have been frequent reports of bears getting into garbage bins and bird feeders and sometimes people's homes.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin hailed the decision by the three-judge panel, calling the black bears "a public safety issue."

"There are a large number of black bears in New Jersey, especially in the north, which have resulted in too many bear and human encounters, more property damage, and subsequent public complaints," he said in a statement.

The department has been in a legal battle with the New Jersey Animal Protection League and the Bear Education and Resource Group since it instituted the bear hunt in 2003.

Doris Lin, the lawyer leading the activists' case, contends the state's data showing an increase in bear encounters are erroneous. She said she planned to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

"The policy is full of scientific flaws, and we're disappointed the court didn't see that," she said.

Since the 2003 hunt, state game officials, stymied by litigation, have held only two subsequent hunts.

A 2007 court ruling found that game officials had failed to follow state regulations in establishing the hunts, leading to the overhaul of the bear-management program, which now includes a greater emphasis on research and trash management.

After a five-year layoff, the state held a bear hunt last fall that netted almost 600 bears.

Since then, complaints about bears have decreased 4 percent, according to state environmental officials.

For the weeklong season beginning Monday, the state has issued more than 6,400 permits, slightly less than last season.


Contact staff writer James Osborne at 856-779-3876 or jaosborne@phillynews.com.

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