(NJ) Hunt is only practical solution to bear problem


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Drizzt
March 19, 2003, 04:50 PM
The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

March 19, 2003 Wednesday All Editions

SECTION: SPORTS; OUTDOORS; Pg. S05

LENGTH: 921 words

HEADLINE: Hunt is only practical solution to bear problem

SOURCE: North Jersey Media Group

BYLINE: OLIVER SHAPIRO

BODY:
Just in case there are a few of you who haven't heard, the Fish and Game Council has announced its intention to authorize a hunting season for black bears this autumn.

The season is proposed for Dec. 8-13, coinciding with the traditional six-day firearm buck season, and is subject to closure by the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Hunting hours will be the hours between a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset. There will be 10,000 permits available, through mandatory attendance at a bear-hunting seminar, and each duly licensed hunter with such a permit will be entitled to take one bear for the season. Taking bears from their dens is not allowed.

Weaponry to be used can be a shotgun slug from a shotgun of 10 to 20 gauge (inclusive), or a .45 caliber projectile from a muzzle-loading rifle. The only area in the state open to this enterprise will be that north of Route 78 and west of Route 287. No baiting from elevated stands or structures will be allowed, and any bear taken must be brought to one of seven mandatory check stations.

Now let's talk about reality. We reported last week about the results of the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner-appointed bear panel, indicating a lack of consensus on existing estimates of New Jersey bear populations. That particular point seems to have resulted in what actually might be best described as bickering among various factions that would like the numbers to be one way or another in order to suit their group's political agenda.

But everyone agrees on the salient facts. Namely, that the bear population is increasing. That it is at least double what it was a decade ago. That bear-related complaints and problems are on the rise. And that something has to be done.

That in turn leads to the next round of bickering: What shall we do about it? The simplest, easiest, most efficient and most economically sound solution is a controlled hunt. The other option being seriously considered is immunocontraception.

This observer will not dwell on the ethical or philosophical merits or drawbacks of either solution. I am confident that those who oppose the idea of hunting will not be swayed by anything I may say, and certainly most of you can guess which approach I advocate.

But facts, as John Adams pointed out many years ago in his defense of a famous legal case, are stubborn things. No matter how much you may dislike them, they cannot be ignored, nor will they go away.

The fact is that regulated hunting remains, far and away, as the most effective wildlife management tool extant. (Where it is allowed). One of the primary problems facing New Jersey's deer population agenda is the unavailability of hunter access in many areas where the deer populations are high.

It was the same Fish and Game Council that, in 1971, ruled to give the New Jersey black bear a chance to recover by closing all hunting seasons. It knew that the removal of hunting would allow the populations to increase. And have they ever.

Opponents of handing out permits to hunt animals often have no idea of how it really works. Anybody who thinks that the availability of 10,000 permits means that the bear population will be annihilated is far off base. Despite the large number of permits available, there are three considerations to keep in mind: First, not all permits are purchased. Second, of those purchased, not all are used, as hunters have the same demands of work, family, and life on their schedules as everyone else. Third, hunting these large mammals is much more difficult than many people imagine. Reality? Probably no more than a few hundred hunters will be successful in their bear hunt.

Anyone who believes that the removal of this minority of the bear population is unacceptable has to consider the alternatives. With no other checks on their numbers, bears will have to expand their territory, utilize more food sources within their existing territory, or both.

Aversive conditioning and problem-bear removal are fine, and there is general agreement on their continued use. But to think that these are lasting or permanent solutions is severely shortsighted.

Immunocontraception? Remember that this is an untested and unproven approach. It is not yet available, will be very expensive and time-consuming to develop, and there are no guarantees as to what long-term effects it might have on the animal population or the greater biosphere in which they dwell. It is presumptuous and irresponsible for us to walk down that road.

Ultimately, it is the body politic that must decide. We can only hope that the body comes to its senses.

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mete
March 19, 2003, 08:01 PM
NJ ? a bear hunt ? You obviously don't know NJ. I remember the sad story of deer in the Great Swamp, the deer population was far more than the area could support - they were malnurished, diseased and dead. But the antihunters wanted no part of a hunt , they didn't care about the deer. The judge pandered to the antis.

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