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Open Season on the Environment and Black Bears

Date : Wed, 17 Mar 2010 16:13:37 -0400

Grace Sica, Outreach Coordinator NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover St. Trenton, NJ 08618 p: 609-656-7612 f: 609-656-7618

For Immediate Release
March 17, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director, 609-558-9100

Open Season on the Environment and Black Bears

Trenton - This afternoon acting DEP Commissioner Bob Martin approved the black bear policy setting the stage for a hunt. The Commissioner acted in haste and did not complete an adequate review. Martin has not engaged or spoken with organizations that support non-lethal forms of management. The Sierra Club finds it shocking that the DEP moved forward approving rules to hunt bears, at a time when other rules are being bottled up by the Red Tape Commission and Executive Orders.

The bear hunt violates governor Christies own Executive Orders. The DEP did not consider an economic analysis and this practice exceeds federal standards. More than 28 rules have been frozen by the Christie Administration; it is inexplicable that during this 90 day moratorium they have moved forward with the bear hunt rule.

"Yesterday the Acting Commissioner allowed more toxins in our drinking water based on the Executive Orders. Today he has allowed the bear hunt to move forward," said Jeff Tittel, Director New Jersey Sierra Club. "It seems he is more concerned with hunting bears than protecting the drinking water for people in New Jersey."

There has not been a strong justification for the hunt, and non-lethal bear management policies have not been properly implemented. This will set back management of bears and wildlife in New Jersey.

"With budget cuts backs, Executive Orders, and other roll backs it's not just black bears being hunted, it's also the environment," said Tittel.

New Jersey has significantly cut back funds for bear management, including eliminating the bear warden program as well as cutting funds for officers providing education programs and bear aversion therapy, and other non-lethal methods of management. By cutting these funds, the state has eliminated the possibility of any type of effective bear management program and is now looking towards a hunt, which will not solve the problem of nuisance bears.

"Today's action by the Governor is a step backward for bear management in New Jersey," Tittel said. "A hunt is not a bear management program."

This is not a management hunt, it's a recreational hunt. Nuisance bears living under decks or behind sheds will not be affected by this hunt, since it will be focused in woodlands and areas such as Pequannock Watershed.

"While the hunt will kill docile bears in the middle of the forest, nuisance bears living under decks next to houses will remain," Tittel said.

The Sierra Club supports an effective bear management plan that combines non-lethal methods of dealing with bears, public education, and steps that properly handle garbage.

The most important component in an effective bear management plan is education. More than half a million New Jerseyans live in bear country, but many of them do not have the expertise or experience to understand bears and know how to avoid confrontations with them. At the most basic level, people need to be taught that bears are wild animals and should be treated with respect and from a distance. People must be educated that feeding bears as they would pets is dangerous and will lead to aggressive behavior in the future.

Whether or not there is a hunt, New Jersey must deal with garbage or we'll keep creating nuisance bears. Without a concerted effort to codify and enforce requirements on garbage, other bear policies will fail. The state needs to mandate bear-proof containers and locking dumpsters in bear country and ban the practice of leaving garbage out overnight. Garbage is a source of food for bears. If an abundant supply of trash is readily available, the bear population will increase and bears will become more aggressive as they learn that houses are good places to find food.

Other ways New Jersey can manage its bear population and avoid a hunt include:

Protecting habitat: Every year the state loses 8,000-10,000 acres of land in bear country. The more we build houses in the middle of the woods where bears live, the more conflict we will see between bears and humans.

Non-lethal methods of dealing with conflicts between bears and humans: One of the most important programs that has been cut is bear aversion therapy, which trains bears to be afraid of humans and, thus, to avoid them.

Bear-proofing important public areas: The state should work with towns and municipalities to put up fencing and take other steps to keep bears out of key areas, such as playgrounds.

Working with farmers: The state needs to cooperate with the agricultural sector to provide small grants to farmers that allow them to bear-proof their properties and protect them from potential damage.

Conservation officers: The state should have conservation officers and bear wardens to address bear complaints and educate the public about bears.

"The black bear is a symbol that we still have wild places in New Jersey and the whole state has not been paved over with subdivisions and strip malls," Tittel said. "As New Jersey continues to suburbanize and more people move into bear country, we should be managing bears and protecting habitat instead of getting rid of the bears. We shouldn't have a hunt just because it may be hard to sell condos in Vernon to people in Brooklyn in there's bears in the area."

Received on 2010-03-17 13:13:37

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at

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