NJ: Far Fewer Complaints about Bears

State credits six-day hunt in December, schedules another

Black bear complaints are significantly lower so far this year after a six-day hunt in December in which 592 of the animals were killed, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The department received 90 reports of nuisance bears between March 21 and April 20, compared with 305 through the same period in 2010, DEP spokesman Lawrence Ragonese said.

However, reports of “Category 1” bears — those behaving aggressively toward people, pets or property — declined slightly from 21 to 18.

New Jersey Sierra Club Executive Director Jeff Tittel, in response, said the disparity demonstrates his view that the so-called problem bears are the ones least likely to get killed in the hunt.

“It deals more with the docile bears,” Tittel said of the bear hunt, which is not allowed near homes — the locations that prompt the vast majority of aggressive bear incidents.
The DEP’s latest figures, however, predate an unusual incident May 14 in Boonton Township.

Ragonese said a bear that dragged an alpaca away from its pen last weekend was shot and killed by a Boonton Township police officer after it was seen hovering above the animal’s carcass.

Ragonese said it was the first reported death this year of an alpaca because of a bear attack.

The owner of the alpaca declined to comment Friday, and Boonton Township police did not respond to a request for information.

The DEP disclosed the latest statistics last week after noting that a six-day bear hunt will begin Dec. 5. It will be the first back-to-back bear hunt in four decades. New Jersey held bear hunts in 2003, 2005 and 2010 after ending the annual season in the early 1970s.

Ragonese said the state Fish and Game Council’s black bear management plan, adopted last year, provided for annual bear hunts, so a separate approval vote for this year’s hunt is not needed.
He said that, while a record 592 bears were killed last December, an estimated 1,000 cubs — with an 80 percent survival rate — were born during the winter.

“We anticipate that if we hunt every year, that they’ll be a gradual reduction in the overall population,” Ragonese said.

Last year’s hunt sparked protests, with opponents criticizing Gov. Chris Christie for allowing the hunt and staging demonstrations outside a weigh-in station in Sussex County.

Fish and Game Council member Phil Brodhecker of Newton said he supports a bear hunt.

“I think that, for now, it’s at least stabilizing the population. It’s keeping it in check,” he said.