Day one of phase one with this year's controversial Bear Hunt in Jersey is over and the totals so far are similar to last year, despite the state land ban and rainy weather. 36 Bears were harvested on Monday compared to 34 last year on the first day. 4 protesters were arrested. The impact of Governor Murphy's bear hunt ban on state land remains to be seen.
Just last week, groups representing hunters started suing the Governor Murphy order to ban the bear hunt on state land. The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, Safari Club International, and Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation are all involved with this challenge. They're alleging that Governor Murphy is making this order based on pure politics and emotion, as opposed to science backed by The Fish And Game Council.
The Bear hunt continues to generate more controversy all over Jersey. The DEP announced to increase nonlethal plans for population management, but this has been met with more criticism.
Even though Governor Murphy signed the order banning hunting for bears on state lands, the state is still selling up to 11,000 hunting permits. While there will be less land, the amount of hunters could be the same or even higher. Some are also questioning both against and in favor of how effective this ban will actually be. Many who support the ban are worried about it being too tough to enforce, those opposing it are worried about negative impacts from bear overpopulation.
Our local state legislators, State Senator Steve Oroho, Assembly members Hal Wirths and Parker Space have all spoken out against Governor Murphy's executive order he signed this limiting the Bear Hunt. While Governor Murphy is requesting Jersey Legislature to sign legislation banning the Bear Hunt, local Republicans will fight any more changes, including changes to The Fish And Game Council. The state is claiming that approximately 40% of bears hunted have happened on state land.
In August, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order closing state lands to the Bear Hunt. While state lands are closed for bear hunting the rest of this year, the order does not impact private nor county lands. Every year this is one of the most controversial issues in New Jersey. While campaigning last year, Governor Murphy pledged to end the bear hunt. The Fish And Game Council, however has already authorized the bear hunt through 2021 and they are independent from Governor Murphy's jurisdiction. The Bear hunt returned in 2010, and in 2016 they expanded seasons to include October as well. The Bear hunt as become even more controversial after local/national celebrity Pedals The Bear was killed. Adjusting to Bears here in Sussex County was one of the most amazing changes for me in my move from Boston almost 5 years ago. Some say I'm paranoid, I say I just simply have a healthy respect for these majestic wild animals! During my 5 years here, I will say only one Bear has bluff charged me while I was on my ground level end unit deck. The dozens and dozens and dozens of all other bears I have encountered haven't even bothered me at all. The Bear Hunt became a national discussion when Rutgers student Darsh Patel was killed while hiking around West Milford in 2014. In matters of animal population control, I defer to the wildlife experts at The Fish And Game Council.
To lighten things up, I always include this embarrassing story. A few years ago, I was at the bar with my buddies during Bear Hunt week. I explained how while they're all opposed to the hunt, we could perhaps find some common ground. I never support anything cruel or inhumane, taking away cubs, trapping, etc. I then told my friends a story about how shortly after moving here, I saw bear meat for sale at Shop Rite and was horrified. Seeing what I thought to be bear meat for sale scared me so much I then spent over a year avoiding that portion of the store altogether. I then explained to my friends my grocery store wrong turn, and noticed they somehow even made Black Bear ham in addition to Black Bear roast beef. One of my besties, Jasen exclaimed "omg, this is really happening right now!!!" My besty Edward then explained to me "STEVE, THAT IS THE BRAND. BLACK BEAR IS A SHOP RITE BRAND!!!" I was humbled. We were all laughing nonstop. The jokes then wrote themselves. "Hey Steve, you know Quaker Oats isn't really. You know Granny Smith apples aren't really..." Not the first, nor last time I've been publicly humbled LOL.