New Jersey reinstates bear hunt amid increased sightings

The NJ DEP says black bear incidents so far this year are up more than 200%.

Trish Hartman Image
Thursday, November 17, 2022
New Jersey reinstates bear hunt amid increased sightings
Governor Phil Murphy, who previously opposed the hunt, requested the move because there has been a significant increase in bear sightings around the state.

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Bear hunting is back in New Jersey after the state says it's seen a sharp increase in bear encounters this year.

Folks at Skip's Outdoors in Stockton, New Jersey have heard plenty of black bear stories.

"Came right into his back yard, snapped off his fence, (went) after his bird feeder," recalled shop owner Skip Opdyke.

He's happy to hear that this year bear hunting is back in New Jersey.

"We just learned today permits are going on sale (Thursday)," said Opdyke. "(It) should've never been shut down."

The New Jersey Fish and Game Council voted Tuesday to allow bear hunting on designated areas of state-owned land, walking back a 2018 order that did away with bear hunting.

The vote came after a rise in bear sightings and encounters in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says black bear incidents so far this year are up more than 200% compared to the same time period last year, including aggressive encounters with humans, property damage, and attacks on livestock and pets.

But there are rules for the hunt.

You need a bear permit and a hunting license, and you can only hunt in one of the designated zones in the northern part of the state.

Weight restrictions also apply and shooting bears accompanied by cubs is not allowed.

Some environmental and wildlife advocates have spoken out against the bear hunt, saying the state should be taking other measures.

"One of the things we've always called for is more education on how to bear-proof your property," said Jeff Tittel, environmental activist and retired director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "Removing bird feeders, electrify your garden or compost pile, but also not allowing garbage out at night and having bear-proof containers."

Tittel says bears help to keep the deer and coyote populations down and says New Jersey has seen higher numbers of bear encounters in prior years.

"For many people, they're a symbol that New Jersey still has wild places left," said Tittel. "We're not all box stores and subdivisions."

Gov. Phil Murphy said this week non-lethal methods are no longer enough.

This year's black bear season is scheduled for December 5-10.