Bear Season Opens Monday, December 5
The 2011 New Jersey black bear hunting season begins Monday, December 5 and is scheduled to end on December 10. It runs concurrently with the Six-day Firearm Deer Season and is nearly identical to the conservative 2010 bear season. The season bag limit is one bear per hunter.
Hunters can expect excellent opportunities as the Garden State boasts a robust and healthy bear population. The latest population estimates show more than 3,400 bears in the hunting area north of Interstate Highway 78 and west of Interstate Highway 287 in the northwest corner of the state. DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists predict a harvest similar to the 2010 hunting season, with hunter success rates at approximately 7½ percent of permit holders.
Bear hunters must have a current and valid NJ Firearm Hunting or All-around Sportsman License and Black Bear Season Permit to participate in the bear hunting season. Firearms are restricted to shotguns not smaller than 20 gauge nor larger than 10 gauge, shooting slugs and affixed with adjustable open iron or peep sights or a scope; or a muzzleloading rifle not less than .44 caliber shooting a single projectile. Hunters may hunt by stand hunting, still-hunting or drive hunting. It is illegal to take or attempt to take a bear in a den.
Bear hunters must wear a hat of solid fluorescent hunter orange or an outer garment containing at least 200 square inches of fluorescent orange material visible from all sides.
WHERE TO HUNT
The area open for hunting is divided into four Bear Hunting Areas (BHA) and bear hunters must have a permit specific to the BHA they are hunting. A lottery was conducted to award the 10,000 bear hunting permits available for the season, but not all permits were sold out. More than 4,600 hunters were awarded their first-choice permit during the first lottery and it is anticipated that approximately 1,000 more permits will be issued during over-the-counter sales.
The highest bear densities occur in BHAs 1 and 3. BHA 1 encompasses that area of Sussex and Warren Counties which borders the Delaware River and includes public lands such as Worthington and Stokes State Forests, High Point State Park, Bear Swamp, Flatbrook and Walpack Wildlife Management Areas and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
BHA 3 encompasses that area of Sussex, Passaic, Morris and Bergen Counties in the north central part of the state and includes public lands such as Abram Hewitt and Norvin Green State Forests, Wawayanda State Park, Hamburg Mountain, Rockaway River and Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Areas and the Newark Watershed (watershed access permit in addition to bear permit required). The Northeastern corner of BHA 3 has an abundance of state land and an abundance of bears, but very little hunting pressure.
Although BHA 2, in Sussex, Warren and Morris Counties, contains less forested lands and more farmlands than BHAs 1 or 3, bears are nevertheless abundant. Public land in BHA 2 includes Allamuchy Mountain State Park and the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area. The Wallkill Valley National Wildlife Refuge is not open for bear hunting in 2011.
Hunters will find bears in BHA 4 in Southern Warren and Northern Hunterdon Counties. Public lands in BHA 4 include Jenny Jump State Forest, Allamuchy Mountain State Park and Buckhorn Creek, Clinton and Pequest Wildlife Management Areas.
For a map of Bear Hunting Areas, and area descriptions, visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearareamap.htm.
AFTER TAKING A BEAR
Hunters who harvest a black bear shall immediately complete and affix to the bear the "Black Bear Transportation Tag" from their Black Bear Hunting Permit, then take the bear to one of the mandatory bear check stations before 7 p.m. on the day of harvest. At the check station biologists weigh and measure each bear, record ear tag numbers, remove a tooth for aging purposes, and collect tissue and hair samples for DNA analysis. Data collected at the check stations provides a current and accurate assessment of the condition of the state's bear population.
If a successful bear hunter recovers the bear too late to be checked, the kill must be reported by telephone to the Northern Region Office of the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Bureau of Law Enforcement at 908-735-8240 and checked-in on the following day.
Additional information regarding check stations as well as locations of check stations can be found at www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearchksta.htm.
Hunters should be aware that some roads and trails in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Sussex and Warren counties remain closed due to the effects of Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and the October snowstorm. These closures may affect areas utilized by those hunting bear and deer.
For information on the closures, visit www.nps.gov/dewa/planyourvisit/area-and-road-closures.htm on the National Park Service's website.
For a PDF document, which includes a map of the affected areas, visit www.nps.gov/dewa/parknews/upload/Irene-closures-101211-web-version.pdf, also on the NPS site. Hunters are advised to consult the NPS site or contact the NPS for the latest information.
Hunters should make a pre-season scouting trip prior to opening day to determine what effects these weather events had on their hunting area.
HUNTING AND BEAR MANAGEMENT
The hunting season is one component of the DEP's science-based Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, which also includes research, monitoring, nuisance black bear response, and feeding ban enforcement. Bears harvested from previous bear hunting seasons included those known to have been causing damage and nuisance. Tag returns of harvested bears from the 2010 season indicated that 20% of the bears taken were considered nuisance bears. Bear complaint calls to NJDEP from January to mid-October 2011 were down 4%, compared to the same time period in 2010, and overall the number of damage and nuisance calls is down 13%, The most serious category I calls (dangerous bear incidents) were down 16% in 2011.
Similar decreases in damage and nuisance calls to Fish and Wildlife were recorded in the years after the 2003 and 2005 hunting seasons.
Following commencement of the black bear season, the Division of Fish and Wildlife Director may, after consultation with the Fish and Game Council Chairman, close the season. If the Director announces a closure, based upon data obtained and reviewed by Fish and Wildlife biologists, it will become effective 24 hours from the daily legal closing time of the day on which the decision is made. The notification number for season closure is the permit hotline number: 609-292-9192. Season closure notification will also be announced by news release and radio and will be posted on the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Web site at www.njfishandwildlife.com.