Democratic Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy is reversing his position against bear hunting much to the discontent of animal rights activists.
When Murphy was running for governor in 2017, he was against the bear hunt in the state and vowed to get rid of it. He did so, but this year, he is bringing it back due to the increasing bear population in the state and the rising number of dangerous encounters with the animals.
Murphy signed an executive order in 2018 that ended hunting bears on government land. The governor noted at the time that in order to entirely ban the practice, the New Jersey Fish and Game Council would need to do so. Earlier this month, Murphy said he was planning to get rid of the 2018 order because of increased safety concerns.
The New Jersey Fish and Game Council held a unanimous vote in favor of bringing back the hunt after Murphy said he had to reinstate it. After they did so, Murphy agreed and got rid of his 2018 order. The council also examined and approved alterations to the Game Code regarding the bear season in New Jersey.
“The facts on the ground have shown that we cannot rely on nonlethal methods alone to protect New Jersey residents from a growing black bear population,” Governor Murphy said earlier this month. “Today’s actions will facilitate the reinstatement of a regulated black bear hunt this year to help limit dangerous interactions between people and bears to protect public safety.”
The state’s Department of Environmental Protection outlined the public safety issues regarding bears in the state. The department noted that the DEP received a “237% increase in bear damage and nuisance reports” from the beginning of this year up to October 21, when compared to the same time span the year before.
The department said that there have been 84 property damage incidents reported to the agency, 129 vehicle strikes, 62 aggressive encounters, 15 attempted home entries, and 433 sightings.
The population of bears has gone up to over 3,000 in the state. Regular hunts used to keep the number closer to 1,500, Ed Markowski, a former worker at the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, told the Wall Street Journal.
Jeff Tittel, former director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, claimed that Murphy’s new stance has to do with his political future.
“It’s one thing to be for gun control,” Tittel said, “but another thing to be against hunting. That would hurt him in states like New Hampshire, Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”
Activists and groups are issuing threats of legal action to stop the hunt.
The hunt will take place from December 5 to December 10. It will end if 30% of the bear population of 2022 is brought in, but if 20% of the bears are not harvested during the hunt, an additional window of time will be allowed.