The governor cites an increase in sightings and aggressive encounters for his change of stance
Starting in December, New Jersey will again allow bear hunting on private and public lands. Governor Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat who campaigned for a first term on a pledge to end the hunts, is supporting the policy change because of a significant increase in bear sightings and encounters around the state.
According to ABC 7 New York, Murphy also cited predictions by wildlife officials that the state's bear population could grow to more than 4,000 in the next two years.
"While I committed to ending the bear hunt, the data demands that we act now to prevent tragic bear/human interactions," he said.
According to The New York Times, Murphy used his executive powers to suspend bear hunting on state property months after taking office in 2018. Bear hunting became illegal throughout the state after the Murphy administration allowed the state's bear management plan to expire in 2021. New Jersey's last bear hunt was in the fall of 2020.
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After a unanimous vote on Tuesday by the state's Fish and Game Council, New Jersey is expected to authorize a six-day bear hunt beginning December 5. If hunters do not kill 20 percent of the estimated bear population during that time, the hunt could be extended for another four days.
Before the vote, council members heard from people on both sides of the issue.
"Governor Murphy's decision to recommend the resumption of bear hunts based on information provided by the Fish and Game Council should be reconsidered and more effective measures to reduce bear/human interactions should be enacted," said former New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak.
"I would like to say, 'Thank you,' to Governor Murphy and his administration for their courage to look at the scientific facts about the black bear population, and allowing the black bear hunt to take place," said Wade Stein, president of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs.
"The Imminent Emergency Rule is a new political tactic used by fish-and-game agencies to circumvent public opposition, comment, and input," said Angi Metler of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey. "This is not an emergency."
Animal activists and hunt opponents have criticized the governor's change in stance.
"Governor Murphy campaigned to end the bear hunt and has flipped on his promise," said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, New Jersey director of the Sierra Club, in a statement. "This is extremely disappointing, especially since protecting wildlife is a critical component of our work at the Sierra Club, who have 3.8 million members and supporters nationwide."
According to reports by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, there are approximately 3,000 black bears in Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties.
Reports of encounters have increased by 237 percent over last year with 62 aggressive encounters against humans, 12 dog attacks, 12 home entries, and 52 livestock attacks.