Guest Column

Angi Metler

Black bears should be protected

An article by Natalie Vena about black bears in the May 10 issue of The Sentinel contained information on black bears that needs clarification.

The New Jersey Fish and Game Council, composed entirely of hunters, voted to kill 350 bears starting in September because it is mandated to provide recreational hunting seasons for its constituents.

The Fish and Game Council does not know how many bears there are in New Jersey. No one does. The last official tagging of bears was done more than three years ago.

Even if the 1,000 figure is accurate, this translates to less than one bear per acre in northern New Jersey, a number that is easily managed through education, bear aversion techniques and the introduction of a pilot sterilization program.

Hemlock Farms, Pa., has a three-bear per acre density and is coexisting peacefully with the bears.

The problem is with people’s perception and education, not with bears.

Regulated, managed hunting killed all but 10-30 bears, and as a result, the black bear hunting season was closed in 1970. Black bears are among the slowest reproducing mammals in North America, and thus are not capable of overpopulating an area.

While there are larger issues that need to be addressed, the immediate need is to legislatively protect black bears, allowing time for the long-term, non-lethal solutions to be implemented in areas where there are conflicts associated with the recovery of bears and the ongoing encroachment of our human population into bear territory.

For the last several years, the Fish and Game Council has been soliciting complaints about bears and focusing its efforts on getting the public thinking that bears are dangerous.

According to the world’s foremost expert on black bears, wildlife biologist Dr. Lynn Rogers, black bears are timid and gentle creatures.

The facts speak for themselves. Black bears have never killed or seriously harmed anyone in the recorded history of our state, even when bear numbers were much higher. We have a greater likelihood of being killed by lightning, a dog or bees than by a black bear, and also a much higher chance of being killed by a hunter, with injuries and fatalities being fairly common in this activity.

Everyone who is against this unconscionable hunt needs to call Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina (R-13th) and Assemblyman Samuel Thompson (R-13th), and Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-13th) to urge their support and/or co-sponsorship of the black bear protection bills (A.2308/S.1162).

Please consider attending a black bear rally on May 22 at the Statehouse in Trenton from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information on black bears and how to protect them, call the black bear hotline at (732) 446-6963.


Angi Metler is a resident of Old Bridge