UPDATE, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, 2:27 p.m. ET: Today, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife posted on its website that the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division dismissed the lawsuit brought up by animal rights groups, meaning that the New Jersey bear hunt is now open.
“This is a tragic day for New Jersey’s black bears. The coming days will see them gunned down by the hundreds under the guise of a bogus emergency concocted to prevent experts and the public from scrutinizing the astonishing lack of sound science supporting the state’s decision," Nicholas Arrivo, managing attorney for Wildlife at the Humane Society of the United States, told Green Matters in a statement.
"The harm this hunt will inflict on the bear population — and to the tenets of transparency and accountability in state government decision-making — may be irreversible.”
PREVIOUSLY, as published Nov. 30, 2022: A New Jersey bear hunt was recently scheduled to take place in early December — but a group of animal protection groups are doing everything in their power to prevent it from happening. In fact, they just took legal action to block the bear hunt, and a judge has agreed.
That said, this halt is only temporary, and there is a lot more work to be done in New Jersey to prevent this bear hunt, as well as to prevent the state from relegalizing bear hunting. Keep reading to learn more about this last-minute black bear hunt, why activists are opposing it, and why it has been halted.
Bear hunting has been banned in New Jersey for years.
The New Jersey government used to host an annual bear hunt. In 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy passed an executive order banning bear hunting, as reported by The New York Times. The hunt has not happened in several years.
But on Nov. 10, 2022, Gov. Phil Murphy went back on his promise to permanently end the bear hunt, and instead, made it possible for the hunt to resume within just a few weeks, NJ.com reported.
Just days later, New Jersey’s Fish and Game Council voted to authorize a bear hunt, to begin on Dec. 5. The hunt is expected to last for six days, but if hunters do not kill 20 percent of the estimated local bear population during those six days, the bear hunt could be extended another four days, The New York Times explained.
Animal protection groups are fighting back against New Jersey bear hunters.
On Tuesday, Nov. 29, a coalition of three animal protection groups filed a lawsuit against the government. Specifically, they are presenting an emergency court challenge to the scheduled hunt.
The groups — Animal Protection League of New Jersey, the Humane Society of the United States, and Friends of Animals — are challenging the New Jersey Fish and Game Council, and note that six of the Council’s 11 members are nominated by hunt clubs — meaning it’s not really a surprise that the Council is in favor of reinstating the bear hunt.
In a press release shared with Green Matters, the animal groups explain that they are “challenging the Council’s misuse of an emergency rulemaking loophole to bypass required procedures that guarantee the public the right to weigh in and require the Council to respond to said public comments.” Essentially, the Council pushed through emergency approval for this hunt, and did not give the public time to respond.
The lawsuit asks the government to put a stop to the Dec. 5 hunt — and on Nov. 30, state appeals court Judge Lisa Rose responded to the lawsuit by temporarily halting the bear hunt, as reported by NJ.com.
Now, the coalition who filed the lawsuit has until 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2 to submit its legal argument; the Division of Fish and Wildlife will then have until 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 5 to respond. In case you forgot, Dec. 5 is the day the hunt was originally scheduled to start.
“The Council is not above the law and should not be allowed to impede public input by fabricating an ‘emergency,’” Jennifer Best, Director of Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program, said in a statement.
“In addition to the disingenuous emergency, the New Jersey black bear hunt is illegal because the Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy is arbitrary and capricious and fails to meet the standards set out by the state Supreme Court,” added Doris Lin, Legal Director of Animal Protection League of New Jersey.
Why do New Jersey hunters think black bear hunting should be legal? It comes down to population.
Those on the opposing side of the animal coalition assert that hunting bears will help manage the bear population in New Jersey.
According to the coalition’s press release, the Council claimed that the black bear population has been growing, and that there has been an increase in bear incidents as of late. However, the coalition asserts that these two things are not true, and that more than 90 percent of this year’s bear complaints were non-dangerous and typical bear behavior.
Additionally, the coalition notes that black bears are slow to reproduce, that trophy hunting can irreversibly damage populations, and that “hunting accidents have killed more people than bears have” in New Jersey.
Instead of using bear hunts to keep the public safe from bears, the animal groups propose simpler and more humane solutions.
“The only thing that will keep the public safe and black bears wild is education on simple and effective solutions, such as bear-resistant trash cans and removing bird feeders from March through November,” Jennifer Best stated.
If you are local to the New Jersey area, there is a protest against the bear hunt on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 12 p.m.
This article has been updated.