The annual New Jersey bear hunt has killed 164 bears so far, according to nj.com. Shockingly, 124 bears were killed on the first day of the week-long hunt. This puts the kill rate just about on par with last year’s numbers. Luckily, there are folks in NJ who have been vocal about their opposition to the hunt. From NJ.com:
Animal-rights protesters demonstrated the first day of the hunt, saying that the hunt was a faulty way to manage the resurgent bear population. Today, the groups said they were traveling to Trenton to oppose the ongoing hunting season – and particularly the practice of baiting bears with piles of food in the woods of northwestern New Jersey.
“We’re opposed to the killing of bears, but the practice of baiting is especially odious,” said Jay Lassiter, of the League of Humane Voters of New Jersey. “Luring a bear to a bait site damages the environment, changes the foraging habits of bears, and increases their population, and it’s a surefire way of increasing unwanted human/bear encounters.”
An online petition to stop the bear hunt drew over 24,000 signatures (myself included).
A leading expert in bear behavior, Lynn Rogers, Ph.D, believes that humans and black bears can peacefully coexist. And over 74% of New Jersey voters would prefer a non-lethal way of managing the bear population. How can bears and humans peacefully coexist? Well, one easy way of reducing conflicts between humans and bears is simply educating the public on bear attractants, and banning the practice of feeding or luring bears with food.
And yet, every time Bear Smart Legislation has been introduced in New Jersey, it fails to get passed. Click here for the Bear Smart legislation proposed in 2014, which would have amended current law and make it unlawful for a person to: (note: underlined areas mark the new, proposed language)
feed, give, place, expose, deposit, distribute or scatter any edible material, lure, or attractant [with the intention of] in a manner that will result in feeding, attracting or enticing a black bear when black bear are known to frequent the area.
In 2005, Professor Edward A. Tavvs, Ph.D. published a report that evaluated the two main approaches to reducing human conflicts and complaints with black bears: (1) hunting; and (2) non-violent program. His report can be found here.
The results demonstrate that at every site in which the hunting approach was evaluated no effect in reducing the human complaints/conflicts was observed while at every site in which the non-violent program was evaluated, the non-violent approach was demonstrated to be markedly effective in reducing human complaints/conflicts. It is particularly important to note that in the state of New Jersey the number of complaints has been statistically significantly declining over the last seven years, consistent with using the non-violent approach. [emphasis added]
What’s really damning to the hunting approach is that human complaints/conflicts actually increased when such an approach was used. An example of this from the report: “Ontario, Canada’s data from 1989 to 2000 show that there has been a bear hunt every year, with a generally increasing number of bears killed annually. The number of complaints has correspondingly increased annually.”
This report makes it pretty clear to me that the non-violent approach is best.
So how many more bears in New Jersey will have to die before elected officials choose to do the right thing, which is to focus on prevention, education and smart legislation?