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January 31, 2001


For more information contact:
Al Ivany at (908) 637-4125

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife held its first course to train police officers and park police on the techniques of black bear response and control on January 30.

This first classroom session, held at the Morris County Police Academy, was filled to capacity with enforcement personnel representing 22 municipalities and one County Park police force. The class will be split into three groups for the field portion of the course which will take place on the Division's Black River Wildlife Management Area range on January 31 and February 7 and 8. A second course is scheduled for February 13 with the required field training days on February 15 and 16.

"The Black Bear Response and Control Course is part of the Division's modified Black Bear Management Plan to more aggressively address the issue of problem bears in New Jersey," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "The Division will also increase its black bear educational efforts this year as part of the modified management plan."

The officer training is part of a plan recommended by Governor Whitman in her request to the Fish and Game Council to suspend the black bear hunting season that was proposed for this winter. Training local law enforcement agencies to be able to assist in managing the growing black bear conflicts was suggested by the Governor. Except for an appropriation of $200,000 in the year 2000, hunter and angler funds paid for managing the black bear problems that have steadily increased during the past decade. The efforts to both increase aggressive management of problem bears and expand education in accordance with the Governor's recommendations will be funded by a General Fund appropriation to the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The Black Bear Response and Control Course is being conducted by the Division's training specialist. This course is the only authorized training for officers in New Jersey. Law enforcement officers will not be authorized to control or euthanize problem bears in New Jersey without first completing the Division training course.

Police officers and park police will receive classroom training on aversive conditioning techniques (behavior modification) and how to euthanize aggressive bears safely. They will also be taught segments on black bear biology, categorizing problem bears based on behavior, and appropriate equipment needed for aversive conditioning and euthanization.

Range training will consist of shooting fundamentals and safety. Life-size bear targets will be used to teach attendees how to use rubber buckshot, pyrotechnic devices and euthanization using shotgun slugs. All departments attending will receive a supply of state-approved rubber buckshot and pyrotechnic materials. In addition, each officer attending will receive a certificate indicating successful completion of the course.

"Authorizing park police and law enforcement officers for black bear response and control will aid in the effort to try and manage the increasing number of conflicts between an expanding black bear population and a growing human population," McDowell added. "The more aggressive approach to managing problem bears with the assistance from local law enforcement will not only help us protect the safety of people, but also ensure that black bears remain an integral part of New Jersey's wildlife heritage."

Black bears in New Jersey have increased in population from a low of less than 100 in the 1970s to more than 1,000 today. They can be found in all of the state's northern and western counties and continue to expand their range southward and eastward.