Bear Hunt Banned

It's politics first as New Jersey official outmaneuvers game commission.

Like high school seniors awaiting college acceptance letters, New Jersey hunters spent last fall hoping and waiting for a black bear season. After a series of lawsuits and political battles that seemed to lend promise to the season each week before snatching it away, a court injunction finally ended any chance of a hunt. Here’s a timeline of the seesaw battle that took place.

**Dec. 2003: **After 33 years, New Jersey reinstates a black bear hunt. Hunters bag 328 bears during a weeklong hunt hampered by protests and media coverage.

**June 2004: **The New Jersey Fish and Game Council, chartered with the power to set hunting and fishing seasons, approves another black bear hunt by a nearly unanimous vote of 10-1.

Sept. 2004: Amid pressure from anti-hunting groups, Environmental Commissioner Bradley Campbell rejects 3,000 applications for bear-hunting permits as a way to protest the hunt. He advocates using awareness and contraception programs to control bear numbers.

**Oct. 14, 2004: **Several hunting organizations sue the state and Commissioner Campbell in state Superior Court to keep the hunt.

**Oct. 26, 2004: **While awaiting a ruling from the Superior Court, Campbell ups the ante by closing all public lands under the DEP’s control to bear hunting.

Oct. 27, 2004: A judge orders the DEP to accept permit applications. Campbell’s office nonetheless refuses to authorize any permits, claiming the judge’s ruling said it only had to “accept” permits, not “process” them.

**Nov. 16, 2004: **An appellate court rules that permits must be issued after an appeal by the state from an earlier ruling was rejected. The bear hunt is scheduled for Dec. 6-11.

**Nov. 24, 2004: **With less than two weeks before opening day, another appeals court ruling upholds Campbell’s authority to close state lands. All WMAs and state parks are off-limits, but the state will have to spend nearly $2 million to patrol the areas.

**Nov. 29, 2004: **In an emergency session the New Jersey Supreme Court agrees to hear Campbell’s appeal.

**Dec. 1, 2004: **More than 3,700 permits are issued for the state black bear hunt.

Dec. 2, 2004: The Supreme Court issues a unanimous decision, ruling that no hunt can take place until a new bear management policy is adopted. Four days before the season opener, the hunt is cancelled.