WNJ Opinion: A Bear Hunt is a Good Thing
Photo credit: NJ.comBy Anthony P. Mauro, Sr.
In my last column WNJ Opinion: The Truth about Hunting I provided some background for the ways hunting can be a catalyst for environmental and personal health. Now, I’d like to make use of this education to explain why a bear hunt is a good thing for New Jersey.
Extensive research performed by wildlife biologists and professionals at East Stroudsburg University has documented that dwindling habitat and a surging bear population is converging to create a predictable increase in human/bear conflicts and encounters.
Black bears have been sighted in every one of New Jersey’s 21 counties, but the largest proportion is located in the northwest region of the state. In this area the estimate is 3,438 bears based on a genetic study conducted at ESU, which is nearly double the number of a decade ago.
New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife has also performed extensive studies on the black bear population. Research and monitoring data show the population is healthy, very productive and has low mortality. The average litter size of reproducing females is a prolific 2.7 cubs.
As would be expected, the swelling of the black bear population has resulted in a doubling of calls to DFW from 2006 to 2009. In 2009, DFW received approximately 3,000 black bear calls. Included in this number were more than 2,100 bear incidents, the calls ranging from bears ransacking garbage and bird feeders to bears killing livestock, pets, breaking into houses and even attacking several people. There have also been bear/car collisions; incidents of school shutdowns due to wandering bears, bears found swimming in pools and even a bear that scattered a Main Street parade.
The cause of the problem is a burgeoning bear population, bear habituation and static or dwindling habitat. The solution is either to provide more available habitat for bears or cull bears to bring the population in line with available habitat. The solution urgently awaits enactment since it now is a public safety matter.
It is unlikely that people will raze their homes and return their acreage to a state of wilderness for the sake of bears so we must bring bear populations in balance with available habitat to prevent future fatalities for both bears and people. As mentioned in my last column we can achieve environmental balance by following Mother Nature’s predator/prey formula – also known as hunting.
The number of bears to be culled is based on statistical analysis and is determined by professionals in state government. Hunting is performed with state oversight and the numbers of bears harvested are strictly monitored. Although black bear education and secured garbage are helpful in mitigating bear/human contact it does not address the problem of bear population expansion. The use of hunting to reduce the bear population is not only a straightforward solution to the black bear problem, it also helps to provide equilibrium to the ecosystem while providing food to those that opt to hunt for sustenance as opposed to buying butchered meat, fowl or fish at the food market.
Contrary to what many people are told nearly all hunters eat their prey whether it is bear, deer, waterfowl or other game. The hunter that feeds his family bear is eco-friendly since he or she have traded away the use of the environmentally harmful use of food processing and food distribution to local markets.
As the huntsman or huntswoman helps to bring a better balance between bears and available habitat the territorial nature of bears will provide relief for remaining populations as they recede from human contact into vacated areas of wilderness. This lessens bear/human encounters and conflicts. The Division of Fish and Wildlife monitors the results of the hunt on bear populations and can adjust future quotas accordingly. In fact, revenue from the sales of hunting licenses helps to fund research on bears to ensure they are managed wisely and responsibly.
I think a bear hunt is not only necessary for public safety but it will also help to bring the bear population in balance with available habitat and feed the hunter and his or her family.
It is timely to have a bear hunt. A bear hunt is a good thing.
Anthony P. Mauro, Sr is Chairman and cofounder of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance a group of three non-profit conservation organizations. Mr. Mauro has also authored books about conservation. He was also a member of Governor Christie’s DEP Transition Team. He can be reached at email@example.com .