At the close of the New Jersey black bear season, harvest numbers end up higher than expected.
The 693-pound black bear killed by New Jersey hunter Steven Polanish was the biggest bear killed during the one-week firearms bear season thus far. Yet, it was by no means the only one; at the close of New Jersey's black bear season hunters had tagged a total of 267 bruins.
While favorable weather conditions allowed hunters to harvest a large number of bears on the season's opening day (124), poor weather kept many hunters inside during the first few days of the hunt.
Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said in an interview that, "Hunters are less likely to stay in the woods if there are uncomfortable weather conditions."
Ragonese's prediction came true, and now harvest numbers, in addition to being higher than last year (267 vs 251), are higher than the state biologists had predicted. While bad weather kept the hunt from starting fast, an uptick in permit sales later in the week, along with a growing interest from out-of-state hunters, helped the season to finish strong.
Northwestern New Jersey has the most dense black bear population in North America, according to officials, and this hunt was part of a five-year management plan designed to bring bear numbers back to a healthy and sustainable level. While the total number of bears killed has dropped (592 were taken in 2010), the state still has a way to go. David Chanda, director of the state's Division of Fish and Wildlife, said the goal was to bring the population of bears in New Jersey down to about 1,200-1,500 from the current 2,500 (prior to this year's hunt).
Opposition to the hunt has been fierce, with many protesting the baiting of bear, and many fearing that there will be no more bears left. Baiting bears, as any bear hunter can tell you, in no way guarantees success; the large population of bears is also putting undue pressure on the people living in northwestern New Jersey. While neither of these facts has stemmed the tide of criticism and opposition, the hunt, as they say, must go on.