New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Bob Martin today approved the New Jersey Fish and Game Council's 2010 Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy.
"The Council incorporated the latest research and science into its proposed black bear management policy that shows the population is sustainable and growing," Acting Commissioner Martin said. "This growth coincides with an increase in serious bear incidents supporting the need for population control in addition to continued nonlethal management tools including public education and outreach."
The DEP also supports legislation that would increase penalties for people who feed black bears and draw the animals into populated areas.
The most recent black bear population estimate for the portion of New Jersey north of I-80 is approximately 3,400 based on a 2009 DNA study by East Stroudsburg University. The bear population in this area has increased to its current level from an estimate of 500 bears in 1992.
Category I bear incidents, involving black bears exhibiting behavior that is an immediate threat to human safety, or those causing agricultural damage to farmland or property damage over $500, have increased 96 percent from 2006 to 2009. Category I, II and III incidents combined have increased by 130 percent during the same time period.
The Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy's integrated approach to managing black bears includes research and monitoring, non-lethal and lethal control of problem bears, public education on coexisting with bears, law enforcement to reduce conflicts between bears and people, and a controlled hunt.
Over the past 10 years, bear education programs have been presented by the DEP to more than 100,000 people, and more than 3 million pieces of bear education literature have been distributed. This year 31 bear education programs and outreach efforts have been conducted with an additional 21 programs scheduled.
DEP Conservation Officers inspected more than 4,600 residential properties in high bear incident areas and found 98 percent were in compliance with black bear garbage management guidelines. This spring, Conservation Officers will focus enforcement efforts and education outreach on commercial properties in high bear incident areas.
In 2005, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the Council may authorize a black bear hunt only if a hunt is consistent with a comprehensive black bear management policy developed by the Council and approved by the Commissioner. In 2007, the New Jersey Appellate Division required that any comprehensive black bear management policy be adopted in accordance with the New Jersey Administrative Procedure Act.
The proposed plan will now be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law for publication in the April 19 New Jersey Register. Following publication, the public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed policy in writing, and will also have the opportunity to comment during a public hearing on May 11 at 6 p.m., New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State St., Trenton, NJ 08625.
To review the Fish and Game Council's proposed Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, visit: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearpolicy10.htm