New Jersey's governor, Jon Corzine may shut down a six-day open-season on bears in that state in December. In 2003 New Jersey held a bear hunt in an attempt to reduce the bear population that's perceived to be encroaching on human-populated areas. In 2005 the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection approved annual bear hunts from 2005 through 2009, and about 300 bears were killed in each of the 2003 and 2005 hunts.
Hunt supporters say it's the only way to protect the public from the bears. In a joint statement, state Senator Littell and Assemblywoman McHose said this:
The population level of black bears in this part of the state is at a critical level and their numbers must be controlled to protect people, property and domestic animals.
Hunting is the most efficient method to control the bear population and is an important tool in wildlife management, and we urge the governor to take all necessary steps to expedite the permitting process.
Governor Corzine disagrees, though:
There's no evidence that [the bear hunt] has been a good control device. I haven't seen anything that changes my mind on it.Proposed alternatives include the use of bear-resistant trash cans to reduce the incentive for bears to forage in populated areas, and contraceptive drugs to keep the bear population from increasing. At the moment, the governor has delayed his decision until the end of November.
We have inadequately dealt with bear management policy. We're going to have bears in the northwest part of the state whether we have a hunt or not.
But folks are worried:
Are we supposed to wait until one of these aggressive animals kills someone? I'm not willing to do that. The governor shouldn't be risking our residents' lives.With that attitude, of course, one would have to advocate complete elimination of the bears; a hunt that kills only 300 of them won't be enough. If you leave just one bear alive, it could be the one that kills someone, no?
The fact is that the black bears that live in this area are not aggressive, for the most part, and won't become aggressive if we maintain the natural barrier between them and us, and their natural fear of approaching us. Avoiding putting food/trash outside without a proper enclosure is a good idea anyway, to ward off raccoons and other scavengers, as well as bears.
And how about if we don't build our houses where the bears live? I see this problem in south Florida, too, where I grew up and where my mother still lives. When I was there, alligators lived out in the Everglades and abutting inland wetlands, and people lived a respectable distance away, enjoying the beaches on the coast. There were no problems with 'gators. Now, though, humanity has moved farther and farther inland, and wetlands are now being filled in for housing development. And guess what: people now have alligators in their back yards.
The best thing we can do to protect people, property, and domestic animals is to use sensible planning to coexist with the indigenous wildlife, not destroy their habitat, and avoid our encroaching on them. I'd hate to live where all the wildlife has been eliminated or relocated, and we've taken over entirely.
(The image is from Wikipedia. Click for the high-resolution version.)