Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NJ's first bear hunt in five years is set to go on as planned

Sunday, November 28, 2010 BY TARA KOLTON
Staff Writer North Jersey.com

New Jersey’s first bear hunt in five years is just a week away and set to go on as planned despite a last-ditch effort by several animal rights organizations to have the hunt postponed.

On Monday, Nov. 22, State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin rejected an appeal made by the Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) and the West Milford-based Bear Education and Resource (BEAR) Group to postpone the six-day hunt, scheduled for a seven-county region that includes parts of Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon, Passaic, Morris, Somerset and Bergen counties. The bear hunt, set to take place from Dec. 6 to 11, is authorized under the state’s recently adopted Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP).

"The facts are clear, we have an overpopulation of black bears in New Jersey, and we must address that issue," said Martin in a press statement. "A regulated black bear hunt is one important and necessary tool to deal with the growing number of bears, as part of the state’s overall, comprehensive approach to managing its black bear population."

The DEP estimates that the black bear population for the portion of New Jersey north of Interstate 80 is approximately 3,400 animals, which signifies a marked rise from fewer than 500 in the mid-1990s. Bears have also been reported in all 21 counties, with a corresponding rise in bear complaints.

Martin, responding to a Nov. 17 written request by the APLNJ and the BEAR Group to postpone the hunt, also emphasized "the accuracy of the DEP’s data on bear complaints and bear-human encounters caused by the increasing black bear population, despite contrary public claims of inflated numbers made by Rutgers chemistry professor Edward Tavss," according to the DEP’s Monday statement.

The 2010 Tavss study the DEP is referring to was completed over five months by Tavss, who says he utilized 4,700 records obtained by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) through the Open Public Records Act. Tavss concluded that "contrary to what the DFW claims, bear nuisance complaints in NJ have significantly declined," according to the Oct. 4 release of the study’s findings. In particular, he claims that a duplication of bear complaints resulted in the DEP and DFW’s allegedly "inflated" bear complaint numbers.

Martin said that a thorough review of bear complaints for 2008 and 2009 by the DEP’s Office of Audit showed "virtually no duplication of complaint reports and verified the accuracy of the information provided in the CBBMP." He said that the audit showed that fewer than 1 percent of about 3,000 bear complaints registered by the DEP in each of those years may have resulted from duplication of information.

"I have reviewed your request and I find that it does not provide any basis to stay the hunt, nor does it raise any legitimate questions about the inclusion of the black bear hunt in the state’s CBBMP," wrote Martin.

The commissioner stressed that the DEP is gathering "more and better information on black bears, providing a valuable resource that contributes to the department’s black bear management efforts."

Commissioner Martin denied the request to stay the hunt after consulting with New Jersey Fish and Game Council (FGC) Acting Chairwoman Jeanette Vreeland, who also was petitioned to postpone the hunt. Vreeland concurred with Martin, but noted a vote of the full FGC which adopted the CBBMP in July, is required to formalize her position. A telephone meeting of the council will soon be held to deal with that issue, according to Vreeland.

Full story ..

Related Stories:
Press Release. DEP Rejects Request to Postpone Bear Hunt

NJ Bear Hunt. NJ Bear Overpopulation Issues

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