Debate Over Black Bear Hunt Heats Up in New Jersey

Hunting black bears in New Jersey is illegal, but growing estimates of the number of black bears in the state combined with high profile bear incidents is driving debate in that state over whether it is time for a limited bear hunt in the state.

In the early 1980s, there were less than 100 bears in New Jersey. Nobody knows how many bears are in the state today, but estimates range anywhere from 1,400 to 1,900 bears.

Although it is illegal to hunt bears, plenty of them are still killed by human beings. In 2001, for example, 52 were killed in automobile accidents, 20 were killed by wildlife officials (usually because the bears are aggressive), and four were killed by police and property owners.

In March, for example, police shot a bear that was attempting to enter a home. Later in March, a bear attacked a dog.

In 2000, the increasing frequency of human-bear encounters led for calls to a limited hunt, but that never materialized in the legislature. But estimates that the bear population might be as high as 1,900 has formerly anti-hunt legislators rethinking their position.

Assemblyman Christopher Bateman, for example, sponsored legislation to ensure a five-year moratorium on bear hunting in New Jersey. Now, however, he’s wondering if a limited hunt might not be for the best. “Maybe we need a limited hunt,” Bateman told the Associated Press. “The last thing we need is someone getting hurt by a bear.”

Animal rights activists and environmentalists claim that the number of black bears are being intentionally exaggerated to provide political cover for renewing a hunt, but wildlife officials note that a number of factors indicate that the bear population is increasing rapidly.

Since bears have no natural predator other than humans, it is hardly novel to suggest that the bear population might be expanding very quickly in the absence of any predation.


Rise in black bear population rekindles call for hunt. The Associated press, March 23, 2002.

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