Anti-Hunting Groups Force Indefinite Halt of New Jersey Bear Hunt Days Before Opener

Human-bear conflict has been on the rise in New Jersey. NPS/Neal Herbert

A coalition of anti-hunting groups has successfully delayed New Jersey’s newly reinstated fall bear hunt. In 2018, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy banned bear hunting in the state. This fall, in a surprise turn of events, he reversed course and ended the ban, citing public safety concerns. Anti-hunting groups including the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, the Humane Society of the United States, and Friends of the Animals, immediately sued to stop the fall hunt. The organizations allege that the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife doesn’t have an accurate enough population estimate of the state’s bruins to hold a hunt. Former New Jersey legislator Raymond Lezniak, who joined the anti-hunting groups in their lawsuit, called the upcoming bear season “nothing but a trophy hunt…a glamor thing.”

On Wednesday, November 30, state appeals court Judge Lisa Rose issued an emergency stay. The move puts the season, which was scheduled to start Monday, December 5, on an indefinite halt. Judge Rose has given the anti-hunting coalition until 4 p.m. on Friday to file a legal brief supporting their position. The New Jersey Division of Wildlife has until 4 p.m. on Monday to do the same.

“Clearly, this is a delaying tactic that will impact the bear hunt and the undeniable need to control exploding bear conflicts. This is, and has been, a matter of public safety,” said Todd Adkins, vice president of government affairs for Sportsmen’s Alliance, in a press release. “Governor Murphy obviously has the power to protect the public, but animal extremists are only interested in government action that serves their purposes.”

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It’s unclear if the season, which had been set to run for 6 days and coincide with the state’s general deer season, will be rescheduled following the outcome of the case—whenever that may come. But the number of huntable bears in the woods is expected to drop precipitously as the animals enter winter hibernation. This leaves hunters, including many who purchased bear tags as “opportunity tags” in case they encounter a bruin while deer hunting, in the lurch.

“How long will it take for these legal briefs to go back and forth and for the judges to make a decision?” Ed Markowski, the president of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, told “It’s not good news for a state that probably has close to 4,000 bears when it should have a population closer to 1,500.”

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