The state of New Jersey just announced that the 2021 black bear hunting season is closed. On July 21, 2021, New Jersey’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy (CBBMP) expired, and as such, there is no black bear hunt in 2021. This is the first time in a decade that there is no bear hunting in New Jersey. In accordance with the Supreme Court ruling on September 27, 2007, no black bear hunt may occur without a properly promulgated CBBMP proposed by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council and approved by the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Based on some inside information, we believe the new CBBMP was created by the Fish and Game Council and was sent to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner to sign, but he has not signed it yet. It’s not surprising as the current Governor’s campaign stance was to end bear hunting.
So, the anti-hunting brigade will be cheering. No bears are to die by the hands of hunters! Let’s play detective for a second and say what is likely to happen. New Jersey has the densest bear population throughout North America. Fact. Black bears are not endangered in New Jersey. Fact. New Jersey’s bears reproduce at twice the rate of bears in other states, regularly putting three or four cubs on the ground every two years vs. one to two years. Fact. Human wildlife conflict peaked in 2019 and then increased by 66% in 2020. Fact. Hypothetically, what happens next is bear numbers will go up. Human wildlife conflict will increase. Problem or nuisance will increase. Fluffy, Bobo, and other pets and livestock will likely be preyed upon. Bears will then be removed, which is a nice way of saying bears will still die.
Yes, it’s hypothetical, unless we could show a case study from somewhere else that did the same thing with a predator. Luckily, our good friends in California have already created the perfect comparison with mountain lions. It’s not exactly an accurate comparison of apples to apples, or in this case, bears to bears, but they are both predators living in states with expanding human population and urban development.
What happened since the ban in California? The mountain lion ban went into effect in 1972. Between 1972 and 1994, depredations on livestock and pets went from around a few animals (approximately a dozen per year) to a height of 350 animals. Interestingly, when you look at the very short hunting season in 1992, it’s the only year depredations went down. It makes you think. I don’t have the data prior to 1972, but all indications are that only a few animals were taken every year prior to it.
Since the ban (post 1972), were any mountain lions permitted to be taken for depredation? The data shows that about 45% of all permits received resulted in a take of a lion. Between 1985 and 1995, that number was between 58 and 123 animals (i.e., approximately 120-240 permits were issued). From 1995 to 2007, approximately 120 lions were taken on average per year. From 2008 to present, lion removals have ranged from 58 to 120, with a significant upward trend since 2018.
Have you figured it out yet? Are bans on hunting really about a love for wildlife and not seeing animals killed, or is it purely means to get rid of hunting because they believe the practice is abhorrent? When you look at the facts that animals are dying at equal to or higher rates post hunting bans, it’s very simple to answer that question.