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CASH Courier > Fall 2002 / Winter 2003 Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier
From the Fall 2002 / Winter 2003 Issue

New Jersey Bear Hunting

ON OCTOBER 9, 2002 WILDLIFE WATCH/C.A.S.H. SUBMITTED THE FOLLOWING COMMENTS TO THE NJ ASSEMBLY AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE AND ASSEMBLY ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE HEARING ON BLACK BEAR HUNTING

INVESTIGATION NEEDED OF THE DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE (DFW) OF THE NJ DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (DEP)

Sadly, there are less than 2,000 black bears in NJ, yet the game agencies are pushing, as they have been since Christy Whitman was Governor, to hunt them.

It is time that the legislature of NJ begins to investigate or review the practices of the Fish and Wildlife Division of the DEP. Their management of "game" species for deliberate increase via the manipulation of public lands should come under public scrutiny. Those who make a study of "wildlife management" have known for years that the Division of Fish and Wildlife is the cause of "human-wildlife conflicts," and with the death of Esty Schwimmer in NY, as aberrant as it was, management for hunting can no longer be tolerated.

According to the official website of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), as of May 15th, 2002, NJ had 118 Wildlife Management Areas covering 276,000 acres. Additionally, PSE&G maintains four areas for public fish and wildlife associated recreation activities. It’s on those lands that the habitat for wildlife is manipulated to increase "game" or "game-to-be" populations.

A simple perusal of the web pages of the DFW shows that this division is basically operating to promote the killing of wildlife. How possibly can a hunting "season" be sustained year after year unless the wildlife managers manage wild animals into high populations for profit? They manage wildlife for hunting permit fees and excise taxes on hunting weapons. Those monies never leave the Bureau to benefit the general public, but are used to perpetuate hunting and the existence of the Bureau.

At least the excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco go into the General Fund to pay for education and health care. In the case of firearms and other weaponry, excise taxes simply pay for more hunting opportunity to keep up the sale of those products. It’s like using the excise tax from alcohol solely to open more bars to promote more drinking!

Little does the DFW want that fact known to a public that believes they are the guardians of wildlife. In the wake of Esty Schwimmer’s death, to resolve the human-animal conflicts that occur, an urgent investigation is needed to see if wildlife management itself plays a role – if not the major – or even sole role. Simplistically allowing hunting would be to obscure the fact that the management for hunting itself is the problem.

Managing wildlife to be hunted deliberately and necessarily increases populations of hunted species. That in turn inconveniences people, causes crop depredation, and places the public and wildlife at risk of injury or death.

Hunting creates other types of problems for wildlife and the public. The killing of large female "trophy" bears leaves youngsters without an elder to teach them the ways of the world. It takes time for a bear to learn from his or her elder to harvest food, find water, and avoid danger from humans.

The DFW works without public scrutiny on wildlife management areas throughout the state. They create ideal habitat conditions primarily for those species managed for hunting. NY’s Sullivan County, where the little girl was killed, has two of the largest wildlife management areas in the state. The Bashakill is 2,213 acres and the Mongaup Valley is almost 12,000 acres of prime bear-growing, deer-growing habitat.

In NY, a Bureau of Wildlife report details a management technique to ensure a continuing supply of bears whose numbers dwindle after hunting. It suggests delaying the onset of bear hunting by one week after the start of deer hunting. Managers report that it gives the mothers a chance to den with the cubs, ensuring that the males will be the more likely sex to be shot. That’s good for the trophy hunters who are looking for large black bears, and it allows mom to live to bear more young. It is precisely what BOW does.

BOW profits from big game permits and from excise taxes on weapons used to kill bear and deer; they profit from bear chasing with dog packs. In fact, from July through October, they permit hunters to chase bears with packs of dogs, sending the bears across roads, into towns, and onto private properties. There have been documented car-bear collisions as a result of "bear chasing." They profit from taxidermy, they profit from fees paid to them by private hunt operations that do their own management for bear and other trophy species. They even "regulate" the sale of bear body parts. This bureau has turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the public’s concern over depredation, collisions, nuisance, injury and even death. They have certainly been thoroughly callous when it comes to the wild animals who endure so much misery.

There is no doubt that the wildlife mangers of NJ have looked jealously upon NY’s bear season for years. There’s no doubt that they have provided or will provide you with all of their reasons for the need for bear hunting. We ask that you keep in mind that their true motivation is their own existence.

Wildlife management is needed. But the links to the firearms industry must be severed. The policies and ethic must change so that wildlife are not managed to be targets. The agents themselves should be chosen for their humane concern for individual wild animals, ecology, and the public interest. Should it be determined that there is a real need to lower the bear population, then the method for doing so should be humane, and a competent plan designed that satisfies the humane movement that NJ cares about its bears.

Wildlife Watch would like to ask the NJ Legislature for an investigation into DFW’s management for the future of bear hunting. If it is found that the population has increased due to the intentional management of this species either pro-actively or by creating conditions for an increase, then the DFW must be held accountable. If, on the other hand, it is found that that the legislature or a legislator has knowingly caved into the DFW’s plans to initiate hunting in the Garden State, then the State and those legislators must be held accountable for the impact on the public and wildlife.

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