Black bears and their habitat have become a controversial issue in New Jersey, with animal-rights advocates once again complaining about the state’s annual bear hunt, which takes place this week.
The hunt, which is expected to bag about 250 black bears, is deemed necessary by the state Department of Environmental Protection in order to cull the population. Although black bears have been sighted in all 21 counties, about 2,500 bears are estimated to live in the Northwest corner of the state – north of Route 78 and west of Route 287.
The annual bear hunt remains controversial, even after a Rutgers student was mauled by a black bear while hiking and died.
Animal advocates argue that the hunt encourages bears to forage for garbage, since human food is used to attract them to hunters. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, says the death of the student proves that the hunts don’t work — since it is the first such death in New Jersey history. Aggressive bear incidents have gone up since the bear hunts began five years ago, with the harvesting of 1,600 bears.
“This is not a sustainable hunt,” said Tittel in a statement. “This is a trophy hunt.” He notes that the hunts take place in the deep woods, not on the outer perimeter closer to the population.