New Jersey Governor: Bears? What bears?

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who has effectively blocked the management of black bears by hunters in The Garden State throughout his 3 years in office, denied to a newspaper reporter last week there is a bear problem in his state, despite that fact that conflicts with the animals have skyrocketed.

As of Sept. 20, New Jersey had recorded 2,155 bear complaints for the year—an increase of 84 percent from the same period in 2007. The most serious “Category One” incidents, in which bears threaten humans or property have more than doubled, from 87 to 203.

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And the number of bears reported actually entering New Jersey homes in 2008 also has more than doubled, reaching a total of 65.

Additionally, the state has euthanized 25 bruins this year for aggressive behavior, up from 18 this same time in 2007.

Yet, in a New Jersey Herald article last week, Corzine arrogantly told a reporter the number of black bears in the state was only a problem “if you want to call it that.” He then reiterated the state Department of Environmental Protection’s position that improved waste and garbage management would reduce the incidents of bear-human conflict.

“A lot of the problem is perception,” Corzine told the newspaper, asserting that most complaints are simply sightings and confined to a small part of the state.

In 2003, the state of New Jersey held its first black bear hunt since the 1970s. A follow-up hunt in 2004 was blocked by the courts, but was reinstated in 2005. Since then, Corzine and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson have denied the authority of the N.J. Fish and Game Council to implement a bear hunt, saying the state must emphasize non-lethal methods of bear management.

The New Jersey governor’s anti-hunting platform has won him praise from the country’s largest and most active animal rights and anti-hunting organization, the Humane Society of the United States.

“Killing bears simply for their heads and hides is inhumane, scientifically reckless, and bad management policy,” said Michael Markarian, HSUS executive vice president. “(New Jersey) leaders are right to offer a different approach. A simple trash-management program can reduce the number of bears who (sic) venture into inhabited areas more than killing just any bear who (sic) lives in the forest.”