The six-day New Jersey black bear hunt begins on Monday, December 9, 2013, and with it comes controversy regarding the relationship between humans and wildlife.
The Monday through Saturday hunt coincides with the state’s “buck season,” which permits the use of shotguns and the ability to take up to two antlered deer. Hunters are allowed to hunt deer and bear instantaneously, as long as they have the proper licenses.
The bear hunt is part of a management plan initiated in 2003, meant to address the exceptionally large population of the species in New Jersey. The northwestern portion of the state was home to an estimated 3,400 black bear when the plan was adopted. At that time, the region was known as one of the highest concentrations of black bear anywhere, with two to three bears for every square mile of land.
The 2003 bear hunt was the first since the 1970s, and a total of 318 bears were taken during the six-day season. The second hunt, held two years later, produced 298 bear kills. That’s when the trouble started.
Anti-hunting groups rallied to clog the state’s legislative system with arguments against the hunt, and the state’s governor pushed for ending the black bear hunts.
When current governor Chris Christie took office in 2010, he stated that the hunt would be allowed if a Department of Environmental Protection-approved plan was put in place.
Bear populations had continued to grow, and with the newly reinstated 2010 hunting season came 592 bear kills. 2011 and 2012 each saw 469 bears harvested.
Opponents say that bear-smart legislation would outweigh any need for a hunting season, and that non-lethal alternatives are the better option. Activists are planning to stage protests on Monday and Saturday at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area’s check-in station in Fredon.
Licensed hunters can apply for bear permits with a $2 lottery fee twice during the two lottery sessions. Only one black bear is allowed to be harvested by each permitted hunter per season, and bears must be taken to check-in stations for weight, sex and age recording.
Any sex or size of black bear is allowed to be harvested, including mothers with their cubs, as well as tagged or radio-collared bears.
Do any of you have a black bear permit in New Jersey or elsewhere? Let us know if you got one in the comments below.