New Jersey just produced the new P&Y record black bear.
Pope & Young announced the new world record black bear in February 2020, and the New Jersey bruin just barely edged out the previous record.
The club announced on their website that the skull from the bear taken by lucky hunter Jeff Melillos in 2019 was panel scored at 23 5/16 inches. The massive bruin, which came from Morris County, weighed 700 pounds.
"It has been an inspiring journey to say the least," Melillo said in the P&Y press release. "New Jersey, my home state, has it's first-ever world record animal!"
Melillo went on to say that he had previously taken inspiration from an Outdoor Life article that had predicted the next world record black bear would come from the Garden State. The hunter also thanked the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, state biologists, conservation officers and the bowhunting group United Bow Hunters of New Jersey.
"Their organization had a lot to do with getting a bowhunting season for New Jersey black bears," Melillo said in the release. "Without their efforts, I would not be writing this."
The new largest black bear was scored by a special panel of judges in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the Great American Outdoors Show. The animal's skull just barely edged out the previous record of 23 3/16 inches, which was taken in Mendocino County, California in 1993.
Pope and Young Club Records Director Eli Randall called this bear skull one of the most impressive he's ever seen.
"I was not prepared for the amount of mass the skull possessed, not only was the skull huge, but the bone structure was the heaviest I had ever seen," Randall said in the press release.
Black bear hunting has been something of a hot topic in New Jersey for years now. USA Today reports after a that Gov. Phil Murphy was successful in getting a complete ban on bear hunting on state lands implemented two years ago. That's led to some controversy, and the past couple years have been especially tense.
In 2017, some protesters were arrested after disobeying orders from law enforcement while protesting the hunts at Whittingham Wildlife Management Area. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and other conservation organizations have generally supported the hunting of bears to curb a surging black bear population.
In recent years the state's black bear hunt has been broken into sections and are relatively short. They have usually resulted in anywhere from 200-300 black bear shot.