Posted on Sat, Aug. 13, 2005 by centredaily.com
Editorial | New Jersey Bear Hunt
A smart move to protect residents
Bears are an opportunistic lot. Just ask Yogi.
All around New Jersey this year, with less effort than stealing a "pic-a-nic" basket, they've been feasting on trash cans, gardens, bird feeders - even inside kitchens.
Most bears aren't looking for trouble, just food. But when bruins get too close or comfortable among humans, public safety is jeopardized. Two bears had to be killed last weekend in Sussex County, one after breaking into a house. Last month, a bear was trapped and destroyed after biting a camper through his sleeping bag on the Appalachian Trail.
From January through Aug. 1, bear complaints are up 57 percent over last year. Close calls haven't been limited to traditional bear country in the northwest counties. All 21 counties have reported sightings.
That's why the state Fish and Game Council voted unanimously Tuesday to reinstate a December bear hunt. The council hopes to slowly reduce this increasingly troublesome population, which biologists estimate between 1,600 and 3,200. Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley Campbell should honor the decision.
In 2003, amid heated animal-rights protests, hunters killed 328 bears. Campbell canceled the 2004 hunt to spare then-Gov. James McGreevey the controversy during a planned reelection campaign.
Politics doesn't make for sound wildlife management.
However, a hunt alone won't solve New Jersey's bear problem. It should be one tool in a comprehensive plan, which also may include contraception, relocation, harassment, and, most important, continued education of residents in bear country.
People should stop treating bear sightings as a "Kodiak" moment and recognize the potential danger. They should stop feeding bears and, in many areas, birds. All garbage should be stowed in bear-proof containers.
New Jerseyans need to get smarter than the average bear.