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Black Bear Hunting Season Extended By Four Days In New Jersey

Dec 14, 2015 05:16 PM EST
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Black bear hunters in New Jersey are getting another shot. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife has extended this year's hunting season an extra four days following last week's harvest in which 472 bears were killed.

"The harvest numbers recorded this week have fallen short of our six-day wildlife management goal, which was arrived at through extensive science and research that has been ongoing since 2010," Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin said in a news release. "With the four-day extension, we will reach a harvest number that will keep the black bear population healthy and sustainable, while reducing the potential for conflicts with people."

The extended hunt is scheduled to begin a half-hour before sunrise on Wednesday and end a half-hour after sunset on Saturday. Hunters who have already killed their one permitted bear this season are not eligible to continue hunting during the four-day extension, the division said.

This year's annual black bear hunt began Dec. 7 in eight North Jersey counties. The state's (typical) six-day black bear season is aimed at controlling bear populations in the northern part of the state, which has one of the nation's densest populations of black bears. Since this creates a situation that is neither safe for humans or the bears, new game code regulations implemented this year provide the opportunity to extend the bear hunting season by four days should bear counts not achieve goals deemed necessary to provide a better ecological balance and reduce bear-human encounters, the division explained in the release.

The state DEP based its decision on the number of tagged bears that were brought back to harvest stations during this year's hunt. Of the 133 bears tagged for the purpose of calculating hunt harvest rates, only 24 were brought back. This equates to roughly an 18 percent harvest rate, and under new DEP policies the hunting season can be extended if the harvest rate falls below 20 percent.

While this annual bear hunt – which resumed in 2003 following a 30-year break – is an important part of the state's bear management plan, extending the season has raised some controversy.

"Enough is enough; 472 bears have been killed in less than a week. The hunt has done enough damage without managing bears. Extending it just means the continuation of bears dying for failed policies," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in a statement. "This hunt has not been about managing bears or dealing with nuisance bears, it has been nothing more than a trophy hunt. All we have is more dead bears and the same nuisance problems as before."

Instead, Tittel suggests the state should implement education programs and a garbage management plan to avoid unnecessary run-ins with black bears.

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