Hunters Kill 264 Bears on First Day of Controversial NJ Hunt

CT will also need management soon.
NJ Supreme Court judge won’t stop Monday’s bear hunt

By ABBOTT KOLOFF • STAFF WRITER • December 4, 2010

A state Supreme Court judge refused on Saturday to stop the state’s first black bear hunt since 2005, which is scheduled to begin on Monday.

The Animal Protection League of New Jersey and the Bear Education Resource Group had asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay to block the hunt from taking place.

Supreme Court Justice Edwin Stern turned down the request in an order issued Saturday afternoon, one day after a state appeals court also declined to stop the hunt.

State officials say a hunt is needed to control the state’s bear population, which officials now estimate to be 3,400 in the northwestern part of the state, about twice the number estimated in 2001.

Doris Lin, an attorney representing the animal rights groups, said on Saturday that she was “disappointed” but not surprised by the Supreme Court judge’s decision because of the requirement to show “irreparable harm” for a stay request to be approved.

She added that she expects the lawsuit against the hunt to continue in the appellate division. Lin said a similar lawsuit failed to stop the hunt in 2005 but later led to the hunt being declared illegal.

“We’re confident that the lawsuit will proceed in the appellate division on its merits and that we will succeed,” Lin said.

The hunt is scheduled to begin at dawn on Monday and continues for six days. It is limited to an area north of Route 78 and west of Route 287.

State officials say the most serious complaints related to bears threatening safety and property have more than doubled over the past few years. They say there are between two and three bears per square mile in some parts of the northwestern part of the state, about seven times more than they consider to be a manageable number.

Former Gov. Jon Corzine had opposed a bear hunt but Gov. Chris Christie approves of the hunt.

Animal rights groups have challenged the veracity of some of the state’s statistics, and alleged that the number of complaints made about nuisance bears has been inflated.

At a news conference on Friday, Christie called some of the claims made by animal rights groups “laughable” and defended the science behind the hunt by saying it was “environmentally, ecologically sound.”

NJ’s bear hunt: Hunters kill 264 bears on first day of controversial NJ hunt

By ROB JENNNIGS • STAFF WRITER • December 6, 2010

FREDON — Joan Robillard of Boonton was waiting in line Monday to have the bear she shot dead several hours earlier in Montville weighed and registered.

Entering the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area check station shortly after 1 p.m., she and her son, Eddie, were jeered by two dozen protesters who gathered for the first day of New Jersey’s first bear hunt in five years.

Protesters, including Ken Vassilatos of Pine Bush, N.Y., were chanting “stop the slaughter” as hunters pulled up in their pickup trucks, with State Police erecting barriers to keep both sides apart.

One man was arrested shortly after noon, several hours into the six-day hunt, after police said he breached the barricade, state Division of Fish and Wildlife Assistant Director Larry Herrighty said.

By that point, at least a dozen bears had been brought to the check station, one of three in Sussex — the heart of bear country — set up for the hunt. Overall, 264 bears had been killed.

Robillard, who used a Remington 1100 20-gauge slug to kill the bear at 8:35 a.m., echoed the sentiments of several other hunters on Monday — that hunting was part of their heritage and a worthy tradition.  “I’ve hunted since I was 15,” she said.

Protesters took a different view.

Angi Metler of Vernon, a critic of the state’s last two bear hunts in 2003 and 2005, charged that the public safety rationale used to justify the hunt was manufactured. “This is a massacre that is based on lies,” she said. “This is simply a trophy hunt. It’s not about population reduction and it’s not about reducing nuisance complaints.”

Herrighty disagreed. “This isn’t a trophy hunt. It is a management hunt,” Herrighty said.

Herrighty, who was working in Fredon on Monday, estimated that anywhere from 500 to 700 bears would be killed by the end of the hunt. That would represent a small but still significant portion of the bear population.  Prior to the hunt, the state Department of Environmental Protection estimated there were 3,400 bears in northwestern New Jersey.

According to the DEP, bear complaints involving a threat to safety or property have more than doubled since 2007 — after dropping by 40 following the 2003 hunt and by 15 percent after the 2005 hunt.

New Jersey originally ended bear hunting in the early 1970s when the population was nearing extinction.

In Fredon, Anthony Lingenfelter of Howell recorded the first dead bruin — a 327.5-pound, 7-year-old male — on Monday. Joined by his father, also named Anthony, he woke up at 3:15 a.m. for the two-hour drive and brought down the bear at 7:10 a.m. Lingenfelter said he would bring the carcass to the butcher for food, with the hide and head going to the taxidermist. “I grew up in a hunting family,” Lingenfelter said, adding, “It’s been passed down from generation to generation.” He said it was the first time he had killed a bear.

Though only one arrest was reported by midday, tensions between hunters and protesters were evident. Two hunters, upon arriving in Fredon with dead bears, said they did not want to be named for fear of retaliation.

A man from Lake Hopatcong who gave his name as “Bill” said he was concerned the publicity could hurt his insurance business. Another hunter, “Mike,” was making a video of protesters who were making a video of him.

In addition to criticizing hunters, protesters were also targeting Gov. Chris Christie for allowing the hunt to proceed. “Gov. Christie, stop the hunt,” was chanted again and again by demonstrators lining the road leading to the entrance.

Claudia Emerson, a bear hunt protester who lives in West New York, said she opposed the previous two hunts in 2003 and 2005 and that the reasons behind her objections hadn’t diminished. “It’s not necessary,” she said of the hunt.

As in 2003 and 2005, this week’s bear hunt is limited to north of Route 78 and west of Route 287, including portions of Morris, Sussex and Warren counties.