Even though Governor Phil Murphy promised during his campaign to end the bear hunt in New Jersey, officials are confirming this Fall it will still happen. We first started hearing of this possibility in April. Sussex County of course has the largest black bear population out of all counties in Jersey. This issue is very passionately debated on both sides. In an attempt to manage the bear population, the hunt started in 2010. The hunt originally was only held in early December, but in 2016 officials from New Jersey's Department Of Environmental Protection expanded the hunt to include an October segment too. I wondered aloud to friends after moving to Jersey, "if the goal of this hunt is population control, why do they do it in December when many have already gone to take their winter naps?"
While the bear hunt has been expanded for population control, adding dates in October to the original one week December hunt, the controversy surrounding it has grown too. The controversy may be at an all time high now, due to Pedals The Bear being killed in the October 2016 hunt. Due to an injury on his front paws, Pedals The Bear walked upright just like humans and gained national fame. State officials responded to the controversy reminding everyone that Bears are not pets, but wild animals. While I agree with our state officials, I do feel that Pedals was unfairly targeted. Is the Bear Hunt working? Should they continue with both October and December dates, or scale back down to just December if the hunt is working? My feelings on the Bear hunt? I defer to wildlife experts on this one. Yes, we've had the running joke on my culture shock, moving from Boston where there weren't any Bears to what I call the unofficial Black Bear Capital Of America. I'll admit with my many BEAR encounters over the past 4.5 years, only one has bluff charged me while I was on my deck. That being said, one can be the loneliest number, and it only takes one! This time of year it's always helpful to remember common Black Bear Safety Tips.