July 9, 2003

First Geese. Now, Bears are

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:44 pm

First Geese. Now, Bears are in the Bull’s-eye. The Jersey Bear Hunt.
I suppose it is a natural consequence of New Jersey’s being the most densely populated state in the Union that the rights of people and animals vying for the same limited space sometimes collide. As noted here, New Jersey recently gassed a couple thousand Canada Geese when the other less drastic measures failed to convince the birds to leave the State’s parks and recreation areas, where they regularly were depositing literally tons of goose doody.

So now, it’s the bears. It seems strange, even to me – a lifelong Jersey resident, that in this highly industrialized, seemingly always-too-crowded state, we would have a farookin’ BEAR problem. Perhaps that’s because I have never run into one on my street.

Well, it turns out that there are an estimated 3,300 black bears in the state. The population increased from an estimated 2,600 last year. (Obviously bears are doing more than just shitting in the woods). While black bears have been seen in 15 of the state’s 21 counties, the greatest concentration is in the northwest quadrant of the state.

Unfortunately for residents and for the bears, there have been an increasing number of bear-human confrontations, including a bear’s swatting a two year old while he sat on the front porch of the family home. More tragic, was the mauling of 5 five month old in New York State last August.

Citing “public safety” concerns, the state’s Fish and Game Council has decided to authorize the first bear hunt in New Jersey in more than thirty years. Seventy percent of the approximately 2,300 residents who submitted comments, reports and data in connection with the public hearings concerning the hunt favored permitting the hunt to take place.

Not surprisingly, animal rights groups that three years ago successfully pressured the state to cancel a planned hunt, oppose this year’s hunt and have threatened legal action.

The state plans on issuing 10,000 (yes, 10,000!) permits to hunt bear for a six-day period in December that coincides with the state’s traditional deer hunting season. Bear hunters must attend a training seminar, and only shotguns with slugs or muzzleloaders will be permitted. The hunt will be monitored through a system of tagging to avoid overkilling.

The state claims that there are no good alternatives to the hunt, and I did not see any offered by the anti-hunt people, other than simply asserting that reducing the population will not stop the bear-human confrontations.

I know people who have seen bears around their homes with some regularity, and most of them are afraid to allow their small children to play in the yard unattended. I think most people would agree that the bears typically are only seeking to rummage through garbage, or are just “passing through.” However, I can understand the concern of those who regularly find bears on their property. Recently, this problem came to a rather nasty head when police filed criminal charges against a resident who shot a bear that he claimed was threatening his family. The debate raged, much of it not very civil.

I don’t pretend to have an answer, but there is one thing I know for damned sure. With 10,000 people hunting bears and God knows how many thousands hunting deer all at the same time in a small section of our state, it will not be safe for bears, deer or PEOPLE. During that week in December, I plan on staying away from any piece of ground that contains more than one tree.

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