Despite the gloom-and-doom, sky-is-falling predictions of animal-rights protesters, New Jersey’s controversial bear season didn’t even come close to wiping out the state’s bruin population.
Hunters killed 589 bears in six days. The story, from The Associated Press:
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey wildlife officials said Sunday that 589 bears were killed during the state’s six-day hunt this week.
The hunt, New Jersey’s first since 2005, is part of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s bear management policy.
Wildlife officials have said the hunt, which ended at dusk on Saturday, was needed to reduce a black bear population now thought to number about 3,400.
But opponents contend the policy was improperly developed.
Two animal rights groups — Animal Protection League and Bear Education and Resource Group — tried unsuccessfully to stop the hunt before it started.
But an appeals court refused to halt the hunt on Dec. 3, and the following day a judge acting on a petition to the state Supreme Court refused to grant an emergency stay. The lawsuit, which challenges the state’s bear management policy as improper, is continuing.
A similar challenge succeeded in 2007 and no hunt was held. An appeals panel found flaws with the management policy and ruled that the 2005 hunt should not have taken place.
Some 6,680 bear hunting permits were issued for this year’s hunt, with each hunter entitled to one bear regardless of age or gender. The DEP has estimated that as many as 700 bears will be killed overall.
Hunt opponents had argued that the New Jersey DEP was grossly mismanaging the hunt; that the number of permits granted would cause too many bears to be killed.
The harvest of 589 bears represented 17.3 percent of the estimated statewide population. If half the remaining New Jersey bear population is female, and if half those females reproduce this year (black bears usually mate every other year, hence the assumption of half), and if each female yields 1.5 offspring, the bear population next year will stand at 3,408 — slightly higher than it was before the season began.
The idea behind the season was to halt the growth of the population, and to eradicate bears that had become nuisances. The first objective appears to have been met (growth at that small a level, in biological terms, is no growth at all). Next year’s nuisance complaints will reveal whether the second objective was reached.
New Jersey DEP officials concluded, quite rightly, that their issuance of 6,680 permits would yield a kill sufficiently high to halt the population growth. They knew, through experience, the approximate hunter success rate. They issued their permits accordingly.
That hardly seems like mismanagement to me.