Conservation Wildlife Management

New Jersey’s Bear Woes

New Jersey hasn't held a bear hunt since 1971 but with the bear population soaring it may be time for a change.
Outdoor Life Online Editor

New Jersey can’t quite figure out whether it wants to hunt bears or pass out birth control pills to curb its growing number of bruins. At press time the state was considering both options. The last New Jersey bear hunt was held in 1971, but the state Fish and Game Council is trying to reopen the season.

Current estimates put the state’s bear population at 1,300 to 2,000, and the number of bear-related complaints keeps increasing. The council recently announced plans to hold a bear hunt in December 2003. “Most agree that a hunt is the most straightforward and practical way to exert some control over the population,” says council member George P. Howard.

But the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP, under whose authority the Division of Fish and Wildlife operates) is also partnering with the rabidly anti- hunting Humane Society of the United States to study the possibility of immunocontraception for controlling ursine numbers. Instead of generating revenue through license sales, this measure will cost an estimated $5 million over five years of study.

A final determination as to whether the bear hunt will proceed is expected to occur at the council’s annual Game Code hearing, scheduled for sometime in June.