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Christie's Bear Hunt: Unbearable

Date : Tue, 13 Jul 2010 14:45:22 -0400

Christie's Bear Hunt: Unbearable

For Immediate Release
July 13, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director, 609-558-9100

Today the Fish and Game Council finalized its bear management plan, which calls for a hunt this year. In March, DEP Commissioner Martin signed off on the plan, so the Council's latest action is one of the last hurdles in finalizing plans for the hunt.

"With the budget cuts there is no funding to implement the management plan, there is only the hunt," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

"This management plan is just a charade. Even though the plan says it is a management plan, there is no management," Tittel said. "New Jersey has cut all funds for bear management and alternatives to hunts. The state has eliminated funds for education, programs that deal with garbage, bear aversion therapy, bear wardens, conservation officers, and other non-lethal methods of management."

The Sierra Club opposes the bear hunt and will continue to fight for a strong bear management plan that actually works. The public agrees. The public comments against the hunt were overwhelmingly against it.

Christie promised Republican voters in Sussex County that there would be a hunt and after that promise, he was endorsed by pro hunting groups. "This is not about sound science or a way of managing bears, it's about politics," Tittel said.

Throughout this process, Commissioner Martin did not meet with groups that are working on non-lethal management plans. Since 1988, the Fish and Game Council has been trying to push a bear hunt, even when New Jersey only had 150 bears. In 2004, the state Supreme Court stopped the Division from trying to have a hunt.

The hunt will not stop the problem of nuisance bears. Human-bear interactions and bear-related complaints can often be attributed to a singular nuisance bear within a region. These bears are living behind sheds and under decks and will not be targeted by the bear hunt. The bears that will ultimately pay the price of a hunt will be those living in the forests that do not venture into neighborhoods and communities. Eliminating these docile bears is not part an effective bear management plan.

This is a recreational hunt. Most of the hunting will occur in public lands in the middle of the forests, not in the areas where Category II, or nuisance bears, are living. A real management hunt would be a zonal hunt where hunters start at the perimeter of each of zone and move from where the development is toward the center of the zone, trying to eliminate bears living closest to human populations.

The most important component to 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 experience to understand bears and know how to avoid confrontations with them. At the most basic level, people must be taught that bears are wild animals and should be treated with respect and from a distance. People should be educated that feeding bears as they would pets is dangerous and will lead to aggressive behavior in the future.

The current policy of getting rid of problem bears is working. The bears proved to be aggressive are euthanized, eliminating bears that are the biggest threat to the public or property. People in bear country need to bear proof their property, removing bird feeders and putting electric fences around compost piles.

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. 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.

"The state needs to mandate no garbage out at night, bear-proof containers and locking dumpsters. If we don't do something about garbage, no matter what there will always be bear problems in New Jersey," Tittel said. "This plan is GARBAGE since it fails to deal with the most important issue - garbage."

What New Jersey needs to do to manage its bear population:

. 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.

. Garbage: The state must mandate no garbage out at night, as well bear-proof containers and locking dumpsters.

. Education: People living in bear country need to be educated about bear-proofing and how to deal with a bear on their property.

"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, 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 because there are bears in the area."

Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 609.656.7612 (f) 609.656.7618  <http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org/> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org   Received on 2010-07-13 11:45:22

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 nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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Page Last Modified 7/13/2010


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