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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 1, 2011

Contact: Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
 Lawrence Hajna (609) 292-2994

STATE APPEALS COURT DISMISSES CHALLENGE TO DEP'S COMPREHENSIVE BLACK BEAR MANAGEMENT POLICY

(11/P135) TRENTON - Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin today said he was pleased by a state court ruling that upheld the validity of the state's Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP). The ruling today by the Appellate Division of state Superior Court clears the way for a week-long bear hunt that will take place in northwestern New Jersey starting on Monday, Dec. 5.

"This ruling affirms the science- and fact- based policy that we have adopted as part of a comprehensive approach to managing black bears in New Jersey,'' said Commissioner Bob Martin. "The plan is a legitimate response to deal with a large black bear population and a resultant increase in public complaints about bear and human encounters. This is a public safety issue that requires responsible action by the state.''

The three-judge panel rejected arguments made by the New Jersey Animal Protection League and the Bear Education and Resource Group contending the DEP and State Fish and Game Council acted arbitrarily and/or in bad faith in creating the CBBMP, which includes an annual bear hunt as part of the integrated plan to deal with the state's black bear population.

The bear hunt will run through Saturday, Dec. 10, to be held concurrently with the state's six-day firearm deer hunting season. Bear hunting zones include large sections of Morris, Sussex, Warren, and northern Passaic counties, plus smaller areas of Hunterdon, Somerset and Bergen counties. There is a limit of one bear per licensed and registered hunter.

Population estimates show there are some 3,400 black bears in a 1,000 square-mile hunting area north of Route 78 and west of Route 287, with the population highest in the northwest corner of the state, which has one of the highest black bear densities in the nation. There also are a smaller but uncounted number of bears in the rest of New Jersey's 21 counties, with reports of bear sightings occurring in the past few years in more eastern and central portions of the state.

The DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife is seeking to stabilize and reduce the state's black bear population, to eventually be maintained at a density that minimizes human/bear conflicts, provides for a sustainable population within suitable bear habitat, and minimizes movement of bears to unsuitable habitat in suburban and urban areas.

"We have a duty to responsibly manage wildlife populations in our state,'' said Commissioner Martin. "There are a large number of black bears in New Jersey, especially in the north, which have resulted in too many bear and human encounters, more property damage, and subsequent public complaints.''

"Hunting is just one facet of our comprehensive black bear policy, and one used successfully by other states,'' added Commissioner Martin. "It is important to understand that we are diligently working on many other measures designed to maintain a healthy black bear population while reducing public safety concerns.''

The CBBMP, approved in 2010, offers a common sense mix of bear management tools, including education, research, bear habitat analysis and protection, non-lethal bear management techniques and enhanced efforts to keep human food sources, especially household trash, away from bears to limit bear-human encounters. Those efforts in 2011 included the following:

  • Information: Fish and Wildlife's Office of Information and Education distributed 11,000 Know the Bear Facts brochures, 8,000 Know the Bear Facts Kids Activity Guides, 1,240 DVD copies of the "Living with NJ Black Bears'' documentary film, and 64 "Understanding Black Bears'' K-8 teacher classroom curriculum kits.
  • Education: Fish and Wildlife continues an aggressive bear education outreach program, targeting police agencies, towns, schools, libraries, nature centers, and campgrounds. So far in 2011, DEP wildlife biologists have offered 87 black bear education programs and exhibits that were attended by 10,385 residents and officials in 16 counties.
  • Trash Management: Printed materials, school curriculums, community education programs, the DEP web site, and DEP field agents are being employed to try and ensure that human food sources, especially garbage, do not unintentionally become a food source for bears. Efforts also are being made to encourage retailers to sell bear-resistant trash containers and to educate trash haulers on this issue.
  • Research: Fish and Wildlife biologists captured, tagged and scientifically examined 234 bears in 2011; installed GPS radio-telemetry collars on bears captured in urban areas to monitor habitat use, movements and travel corridors; gathered extensive data on 592 bears harvested in the 2010 bear hunt; and partnered with East Stroudsburg University to study ticks carried by bears and possible transmission to humans.
  • Local Partnerships: 32 police officers enrolled in DEP's black bear response training program in 2011, bringing the total of trained officers statewide to 1,039.

"We are fully committed to this comprehensive black bear management effort, which not only protects the public but also safeguards our black bear population,'' said Dave Chanda, Director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. "That includes a continuing need to educate people who live in bear country or enjoy recreational opportunities in bear habitat areas on methods they can employ to limit the potential for negative interactions with black bears.''

More than 6,400 bear permits have been issued so far in 2011. DEP biologists predict a harvest similar to 2010, when more than 7,000 permits were issued and 592 bears were harvested.

About 20 percent of harvested bears in 2010 were considered nuisance bears, causing property damage and/or involved in bear-human incidents. The result was a 4 percent decrease in total bear complaint calls to DEP, with damage and nuisance calls down 13 percent, and Category One calls (dangerous bear incidents) down 16 percent.

For information on the 2011 black bear hunt, visit:
http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/bearseason_info.htm

To review the State's Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy, visit:
http://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/pdf/bear/policy_lit/cbbmp7-10.pdf

For information on the 2010 bear harvest results, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/news/2011/bearseason10_results.htm

For more information on New Jersey's black bears, including tips on avoiding conflicts with bears, visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearfacts.htm

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