NJ Courts Refuse to Stop Bear Hunt

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Pat Zipp

    New Jersey's highest Court has turned a 'paws down' on efforts to stop the state's first bear hunt in 5 years.

    Friday, protesters chanted "Cancel the Hunt" outside New Jersey's Statehouse in Trenton while, just blocks away, a lower Appeals Court gave the bear chase the green light.

    "It is very disappointing," said Edita Birnkrant of the Friends of Animals in reaction to that court ruling.

    But as soon as advocates lost there, they appealed to the Supreme Court for an emergency 'stay' of the hunt.

    Saturday, two days before thousands of hunters are expected to spread out through the forests of northwest New Jersey, Justice Edwin Stern in a simple ruling denied the 'stay' with no elaboration.

    Protestors did not seem to be expecting the courts to block the hunt as earlier Saturday they sent a release out to the news media saying they would be demonstrating Monday at one of the state's checkpoints--the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Newton.

    The first hunt in five years is set to begin Monday and last for six days in the Northwestern third of the state, according to NJ Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda.

    "We'll basically just keep the population at the level it is now," said Chanda.

    In that part of New Jersey (bears can be found in every one of the state's 21 counties, according to research), there are an estimated 3400 bears, and the state claims complaints have been going up.

    But that statistic is one issue of contention between the state and advocates, who argue their own examination of the state's record keeping shows just the opposite -- that many of the complaints were double counted and the actual number has been going down.

    There has been no independent analysis to determine which side is right, but the state says population control goes hand in glove with bear proof garbage containers and education to make sure bears pose minimal danger to humans living in 'bear country.'

    "I think our education programs have helped peoploe be much more tolerant of a black bear in their backyard," Chanda said, while adding "When it starts to break into their home, they're not as comfortable."

    But bear advocates see this as a chance for the 7,000 plus hunters who have permits to just mount a head on a wall, or throw a rug in front of the fireplace.

    "I don't believe in trophy hunting," said Kathy McGuire of Camden County, who said she owns a .357 Magnum that she uses simply for target practice.

    Hunters will be able to go out half an hour before sunrise Monday morning, and will have six days to get their prey.

    Chanda did suggest that while there are more than 7,000 permitted hunters, it is unlikely they will be allowed to kill more than several hundred bears since the hunt can be stopped with just 24 hours notice.

     Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY