New Jersey Governor Ends Bear Hunting on State Lands

An interesting development in New Jersey, not supported by science but only by public sentiment from anti-hunting groups. From the NY Times

On Monday, Gov. Philip D. Murphy signed an executive order effectively ending the state’s planned 2018 bear hunt on all state-owned lands. It was an attempt to fulfill a campaign pledge to environmental activists.

But those same activists were not exactly thrilled.

“Stopping the hunt on state lands does not stop the hunt,” said Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It only changes where the bears get killed. The hunt will continue on other public lands, including county parks, water company lands and private lands. We still need Governor Murphy to keep his commitment to ban the bear hunt completely.”

Although Murphy is a Democratic governor, it would be unfair to say this is entirely a partisan issue. Yes, the anti-hunting crowd generally finds their home on the Left, but the Democratic party is also home to plenty of moderate and conservative Democrats who support hunting rights:

The governor’s office argued that the executive order went as far as Mr. Murphy could within his executive authority, absent an agreeable legislature. And Mr. Murphy hasn’t enjoyed an especially agreeable relationship with Stephen M. Sweeney, the Democratic Senate president. Mr. Sweeney is the co-chairman of the New Jersey Angling and Hunting Conservation Caucus and he has kept legislation restricting the hunt from the Senate floor in the past.

How best to deal with New Jersey’s bears has been an ongoing issue for several decades:

The debate over how New Jersey’s residents and bears should get along dates back decades. Black bears were regularly hunted in the state until 1970, when fewer than 100 bears remained. The hunts were halted until 2003, when Gov. James E. McGreevey reinstated them amid increased complaints about bears raiding garbage cans and beehives, damaging crops, and killing livestock and pets.

But Mr. McGreevey scuttled the hunt again in 2004, facing criticism and outrage from environmentalists over his decision. A limited bear hunt returned for a year in 2005 after renewed complaints of bears on private property, permitted only in a 1,600 square mile area in the northwestern part of the state. Then Gov. Jon S. Corzine canceled the 2006 hunt by delaying state regulations authorizing the coming bear seasons.

The hunts resumed in 2010 under Gov. Chris Christie and have continued since.

The most damning charge against the decision comes from a recent report which explained the impact of the hunting ban. From NJ.com: A report released just before Murphy took office said ending the bear hunt could cause New Jersey’s bear population to double by 2022.”

Writing for MeatEater, Steven Rinella says:

“In a move that blatantly caters to anti-hunters and ignores science-based conservation tools, New Jersey’s governor outlawed bear hunting on the state’s public lands. This undermines the ability of wildlife managers to do their job and prevents hunters from enjoying their public lands. Meanwhile, “State officials have estimated around 3,500 bears live in northern New Jersey, and… that New Jersey has the densest bear populations on the continent.”

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45 thoughts on “New Jersey Governor Ends Bear Hunting on State Lands

  1. “State officials have estimated around 3,500 bears live in northern New Jersey, and… that New Jersey has the densest bear populations on the continent.”

    Bears repeating.

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  2. There are bears in New Jersey? Who knew?

    “We still need Governor Murphy to keep his commitment to ban the bear hunt completely.”

    Why is it Americans seem so enamored of autocratic authority when it suits their goals?

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      • I think there’s also the belief among enviro types that animals shouldn’t be murdered culled merely to serve the interests of humans who’ve gobbled up their habitat. Sport hunting exists in a weird moral zone to me. I also think it’s strange that a pragmatically based wildlife-management decision to cull a herd is viewed by hunters rights groups as pro-hunting.

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          • Oh I totally get that. Practically speaking, if the management folks say the herd needs to culled AND there’s a community of folks who’ll pay money to do it, it’s a win-win from the state’s pov. None of those considerations will affect how some enviros think about wildlife habitat and sport hunting tho.

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              • An old friend from my grad school days was a) and avid bow hunter and b) intensely studied animal rights arguments and was persuaded of their soundness. “How do you reconcile the one with the other?” I cleverly asked him (I was in grad school, being clever is like 80% of the game). To his credit he said that he couldn’t, other than that he just enjoyed it. He even internally ran a utilitarian calculus on his perceived pleasure against the animals pain and harm, and it spit out a loud “no, just stop it”.

                He liked it. End of story. Tho I’m not sure he wasn’t still a bit unsettled that he couldn’t reason his way to a better answer.

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                  • Been thinking about this for a bit…

                    In my own case, I used to hunt big mammals, small mammals, birds, and fish. The big mammals were always the hardest to reconcile with my emotional baseline. I always felt bad, never any exhilaration. The next to go were small mammals and birds, probably because of increased lack of similarity to me. Next was the fishes. I think at one point I didn’t think killing fish – or even wantonly fucking with fish for my amusement – was problematic. I dunno, I can’t recall. I liked *catching* fishing that much.

                    As I got older, tho, and after I stopped hunting big and small mammals and birds but still fished, I began reading about animal rights, the most profound being Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation. At that point I began a sort of personal journey, one which lots of other people have traversed but was personal for me, into animal rights literature and the surrounding issues more generally. The topics had to do with factory farming, of course, but also how the mental lives of animals aren’t that different from out own and even moreso that living beings deserves moral consideration full stop. That stuck. Don’t fuck with animals unless you need to.

                    Well, to cut to the chase of all this, I’m sorta like the guy I mentioned upthread: I love eating meat. I stopped hunting because I didn’t like wanton the violence involved, and I stopped catch-and-release fishing because it just seemed like abusing a living being for my amusement. I tried being a vegetarian when I was younger (when I had a super-high metabolism rate and was super-active) and it didn’t work.

                    So … I eat meat. Quite often I love eating meat. Not regularly, but does it matter? And that’s the end of it. (sigh) Maybe I’ll get there before I’m dust.

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                    • I quit eating pork almost a year ago, because I believe pigs are too intelligent of animals.

                      I do enjoy fishing, and those fish I catch, I kill and eat.
                      I also hunt birds; dove and quail.
                      I don’t hunt birds I would feed at the park; i.e., duck and geese.

                      That said, I accept that others’ morals and ethics may be somewhat different than my own.
                      And that said, there is a point where the acceptance abruptly ends; e.g., eating an animal while still alive, et al.

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                • For me as long as they don’t waste the meat, I don’t care why they kill, if they’re safe about it. I just really don’t like it when people waste meat (in a full-body sense, I’m not worrying over two bites on someone’s plate – scrupulosity is also a problem). Seems disrespectful to the animal. (Yes, I realize this puts it in the realm of spiritual rather than rational opinions. I’m ok with that in life and death contexts.)

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                  • I think it’s the very (exceedingly) rare hunter who leaves the carcass to decompose, tho it does happen.

                    On a river trip a few years ago we found the desiccated body of a deer (with a great rack!) near the shoreline. My guess is that it crossed the river, preventing the hunters from gathering. Bad luck for the hunters. Worse luck for the deer.

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                  • In the last 100 years hunting culture has evolved greatly. I think in nearly all cases, when you find a shot animal in the field, that hunter probably spent a lot of time looking for it. I lose birds occasionally. It sucks. I have never lost a deer but I have had two that I whiffed on in my 30 years of hunting them and in both cases even though I was 99% sure it was a clean miss, I spent HOURS searching just in case. I know guys that have spent days looking for deer that they knew they shot, not because they thought they could recover the meat but just because they wanted to know what happened, for closure and so they could maybe prevent it from happening again.

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              • @stillwater

                I agree with Stillwater’s definition. In my experience, while there may be a lot of bad hunters, I think very, very few kill just for trophies and/or fun and leave meat in the field. So basically, it’s nearly all ‘sport hunting’ since almost none of us need the meat. We might want it, but that’s a different thing.

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  3. I’m not opposed to hunting. But i’ve heard a lot of these kind of arguments up here. There isn’t actually a “scientific” answer to how many of any animal should be hunted. How many bears or deer or wolves are value judgments based on what we want our lands to be. Some enviro’s want no hunting at all. Some hunters want heavy wolf kills to jack up moose and caribou numbers to make their hunts eaisier and more plentiful. Neither is right or wrong outside their own preferences.

    Some enviro’s are more attached to powerful charismatic megafauna they can feel a kinship to. Bears fit that role. ( Insert Grizzly Man reference here)

    We’ve had a lot of these arguments up here about wolf kills by helo and bear kills. The direct reason for heavy culling is always a desire to hunt more of other things. The hunters always present it as “scientific”. That means nothing more than killing predators lives more for humans to kill.

    Having more bear means more people need to keep their homes and pets in a bear appropriate manner. That will be a challenge. But in Jersey culling deer is likely the more important issue given how many there are.

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    • The direct reason for heavy culling is always a desire to hunt more of other things. The hunters always present it as “scientific”. That means nothing more than killing predators lives more for humans to kill.

      I agree with every word of this. I recently heard a hunter say that say that if he hears any of his peers say they hunt for any reason other than ‘I like to hunt’ he calls bullshit on it. More and more I like that logic.

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      • @greginak I do know a few people who want to eat meat but don’t feel it’s acceptable for themselves to eat anything they haven’t directly killed themselves, due to their spiritual beliefs. And those folks, I exempt from that claim. I am sure they’ve thought it through and I believe them.

        But they are exceptions, not the rule, for sure.

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      • Agreed. I’ve no problem with liking to hunt and hunting. I don’t have much patience for the ” we need to hunt to keep populations in balance” or ” i hunt to save the animals from dying a horrible death from starvation or the elements.”

        Some of the most caustic things i’ve heard said about hunters came from other hunters. Some of that is in group snobbery ( sheep hunters looking down at moose/caribou hunters) but still a lot of it made sense.

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  4. I love seeing the black bears back home in WA, but out in the woods. When they come into our neighborhoods, they can hurt our pets and small children (usually out of a fear response), they tear into trash and yards (and cars!) looking for things to eat, and they get hit by cars and killed (and hurt the car occupants, and destroy the car, black bears are still big!).

    If the population is encroaching into suburban or urban areas, the population is too large to support the food available in wild areas, or the bears have just gotten too comfortable around human settlements.

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