DEP Commissioner Campbell's
Letter to New Jersey Fish and Game Council Regarding Black
(03/25) Trenton Attached is
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner
Bradley M. Campbell's letter to the
New Jersey Fish and Game Council's chairman W. Scott Ellis
concerning the management of the state's black bear population.
Also attached is a brief
summary of findings and recommendations from the independent
black bear panel referenced by Commissioner Campbell in
his letter to the Council. The panel conducted a review
of New Jersey's bear population estimates, and examined
management tools and potential population control measures
to recommend to the state based upon their population review.
A full copy of the independent review panel's
report is available upon request.
March 6, 2003
Mr. W. Scott Ellis, Chairman
New Jersey Fish and Game Council
P.O. Box 400
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
Dear Chairman Ellis:
I would like to share with you my views
and some cautionary notes prior to the meeting of the Fish
and Game Council on Friday, March 7, 2003.
As you are aware, the Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) and its Fish and Wildlife Division have
devoted substantial time and resources over the past year
to the challenge of managing New Jersey's black bear population.
The recovery of the population truly has been a natural
resource success story, and the Fish and Game Council has
played a critical role in that effort. By eliminating the
black bear hunt in 1970, the Council allowed our black bear
population to recover. Thanks to the stewardship of our
Fish and Wildlife Division, we now have confidence that
New Jersey's wildlife resources will forever include a vibrant
population of these majestic animals.
This success has brought with it new challenges.
Population increases have coincided with significant losses
of black bear habitat to overdevelopment. The misguided
and often inadvertent feeding of bears and other practices
in communities adjoining bear habitat have encouraged bears
to intrude on highways, community areas, and residences,
presenting risks both to public safety and to the bears
themselves. Over the past year, the number of incidents
in which aggressive bears have put either property or personal
safety at risk has more than doubled. The tragic loss of
a child in such an incident in New York highlights the seriousness
of the issue and the need for a responsive strategy.
Our response has addressed all of these
issues. To protect threatened black bear habitat, Governor
McGreevey has taken aggressive action to stop overdevelopment
and protect open space. The Governor has launched a Highlands
conservation initiative that will provide at least an additional
$50 million over the next three years to protect and conserve
the Highlands region, which is the heart of black bear habitat.
To discourage risky behavior in our communities, I supplemented
the education efforts of our Fish and Wildlife Division
and private groups with a series of public meetings to inform
communities in bear country about the common-sense steps
available to reduce the risk of potentially dangerous interactions
with black bears. To develop more non-lethal tools to manage
the population, I recently announced a memorandum of understanding
with the Humane Society of the United States to develop
an immuno-contraception pilot that may strengthen the effort
to manage this population in future.
One consistent and striking public concern
voiced at our public meetings was a high level of skepticism
and distrust of the population data our Fish and Wildlife
Division has used to make bear management decisions in the
past. Responding to this concern, I convened an independent
review panel of outside experts - including sportsmen, animal
protection advocates, and scientists and statisticians from
across the region - to consider the data and methodology
currently used by the Division to project black bear populations.
I was especially concerned about this because the Division's
internal projection of the current population has increased
by more than 70 percent over the past several months.
The independent panel identified several
weaknesses in the Division's past analytical approach, as
well as a number of areas where further work is needed.
For purposes of the Council's meeting this week, the important
point is that the population numbers are clearly uncertain.
While the Division has most recently projected a population
of 3278, the panel concluded that the population may be
as low as 1350. The panel 's summary report is attached.
In light of these considerations, I urge
the Council to exercise caution in the use of current data
to support a bear hunt. Based on our past discussions, I
understand that the Council is likely to consider a bear
hunt at its meeting tomorrow, as part of the Council's annual
revisions to the game code. In order to ensure that any
such decision is based on good data and sound science, I
would urge that the Council recognize the limitations of
the data in making its decision. If the Council decides
to authorize a bear hunt, any hunt should be strictly limited
in scope, scale, and duration, and should provide the Department
with the flexibility to terminate the hunt if the number
of bears killed appears excessive in relation to the data
available at the time. Finally, to avoid any appearance
that the hunt is being authorized for revenue purposes,
I urge that the Council waive any license or related fees
in connection with licenses to hunt black bears.
I urge the Council to recognize the limitations
of the current data and exercise prudence in considering
whether a bear hunt is warranted after 30 years of conservation
success. Through a more cautious approach, the Council can
help to address our current bear management challenges while
maintaining public support for the use of hunting as a wildlife
management tool and honoring New Jersey's sporting traditions.
Thank you for considering my views.
Bradley M. Campbell
NEW JERSEY INDEPENDENT
BEAR PANEL REPORT
MARCH 6, 2003
On February 4, 2003, Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell named
scientists, governmental representatives and interested
persons to serve on an independent bear panel. The purpose
of the panel was to review the black bear population estimates
of DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife, and, if possible,
make recommendations on management issues based upon their
review of the estimates. The panel did not focus on hunting
or the hunting debate.
In the series of public meetings on the
bear population that the DEP had held around the State,
citizens raised concerns about the adequacy and soundness
of the population estimates. The independent review panel
was designed to open the process to review by interested
groups and ensure thoughtful deliberation of both data/modeling
and appropriate management practices.
The members of the independent bear panel
were: Louis Berchielli, biologist, New York Department of
Environmental Conservation; George Howard, biologist, New
Jersey Fish and Game Council; Dr. Lynn Rogers, biologist,
Wildlife Research Institute - Minnesota; Dr. Allen Rutberg,
biologist, Tufts University; Harry Spiker, biologist, Maryland
Department of Natural Resources; Lynda Smith, Bear Citizen
Group. Dante DiPirro, Counselor and Legal Policy Advisor
to the Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection, chaired the panel on behalf of the Commissioner;
his function was to preside over the panel and facilitate
Three independent statistical experts--
Dr. Michael Conroy of the University of Georgia, Dr. Gary
White of Colorado State University and Dr. Edwin Green of
Rutgers University-- assisted the panel. They reviewed the
data and modeling and provided their comments to the panelists.
This report and the recommendations contained
in it represent the conscientious efforts of all the members
of the panel and the statistical experts. The panel has
been able to reach a consensus on a number of issues that
are set forth in the first section of this report. The panel
felt that it was important to attempt to reach consensus
whenever possible to assist public debate on bear issues.
Each panelist has been given the opportunity to include
his or her own personal comments in the final section of
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE PANEL
The Division of Fish and Wildlife recently
projected a population of 3278 adult black bears in New
Jersey. With the assistance of the consulting statistical
experts, the panel reviewed the Division's study.
The panel was not able to reach a consensus
on whether the Division of Fish and Wildlife's population
estimate could be relied upon. Some panelists felt the estimate
was reasonable. Others had concerns with the approach and
assumptions that were too significant to accept the estimate
without further inquiry. The consulting statistical experts
also split on the issue of the population estimate's reliability.
The panel did agree that Fish and Wildlife
staff has collected a good amount of data, handled and examined
numerous bears, collected hair samples as part of monitoring
and outfitted and tracked a good number of bears with radio
The panel further agreed that further modeling
and data collection is appropriate. Revised modeling should,
at a minimum, address the following issues:
assumptions used to expand population estimates;
estimation of the area of influence around each hair
assumption of uniformity over the prime bear range;
establishment of appropriate confidence interval;
evaluation of baiting and whether it skews sampling
by attracting bears into what is otherwise not their
model selection evaluation of whether modeling selection
results in an over or under estimation of population;
data collection re: birth rate, death rate, age, gender,
distribution, home range and movement;
possible selection of several discrete areas (varying
and representative) where rigorous sampling would be
establishment and analysis of population growth rate.
The panel would like to see these issues
addressed in the next round of the Division's modeling.
By addressing and building in these factors, this process
should be able to arrive at population estimates and trend
data that can be widely accepted.
In the meantime, the panel determined that
it would be helpful if it could reach a consensus on a potential
range in population, even if all that could be offered would
be an estimate. To do so, the panel did not rely upon the
Fish and Wildlife estimate. In order to arrive at a conservative
estimate, the panel: started with the estimate of New Jersey
field researcher, Patty McConnell, of 550 adult black bear
in 1992; picked what it believed was a conservative estimated
growth rate of 8.5% per year (reproductive rate less mortality
rate); then multiplied this growth rate out each year through
2003; this calculation yielded a conservative estimate of
approximately 1350 adult black bear through 2003.
There was no consensus that the 8.5 percent
figure was in fact the correct number. Some panelists felt
the number was low. Others noted that the number was not
arrived at scientifically but was selected by the panelists
in order to be able to present what was likely a conservative
estimate. It was further noted that if the growth rate were
in reality double that used, (i.e. 17%), the population
estimate would exceed 3,000. The panel felt that providing
this information, with the caveats stated herein, would
at least provide some assistance to the public.
It appears to the panel that the number
of bears in the State has increased, though it is not possible
for the panel to evaluate what the growth trend is or determine
if the increase is statistically significant. We will be
attempting to determine this as the State goes forward with
enhanced modeling over the next year.
The panel was able to reach consensus on
the importance of bear management activities such as public
education, aversive conditioning, response to nuisance complaints,
enforcement of the prohibition on feeding bears, proper
securing of garbage, cooperation between local, municipal
and State enforcement officers and the need to change public
attitudes towards bears and the bear population. More on
these topics is contained in the comments of individual
panelists at the conclusion of this report.
The panel believes that it can contribute
to the process going forward and is willing to continue
to serve if the Commissioner determines that it would be
helpful. In this regard, the panel could work with Fish
and Wildlife concerning modeling, data collection, review
of modeling results, review of existing and potential management
practices and any other bear-related issues.