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Doris Lin

NJ Bear Hunt Scientifically Invalid

By November 8, 2010

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Black Bear

Today, the Animal Protection League of NJ and the Bear Education and Resource Group issued a press release demonstrating one example of the pseudo-science behind New Jersey's Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy. While one of the purported reasons behind the hunt is the reduction of the bear population, the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife's own data shows that bear hunting increases the bear population.

DFW's proposed 2010 Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy states that the black bear population estimate in their research study area for 2009 is 3,400 bears (see page 4 here). However, when DFW was pushing for a bear hunt in 2005, they stated that the bear population in the research area in 2009 would be 2,694 if there were no further hunts after 2003. (See Figure 7 on page 38 here). DFW conducted a bear hunt in 2005, and their own data now shows that the bear population is 706 bears higher, a 26% increase, compared to what it would have been if there had been no hunt in 2005.

New Jersey's 2005 black bear hunt and bear policy were both declared illegal by a unanimous opinion of the NJ Appellate Division in 2007.

I'm not saying that bear hunting actually increases the bear population, or that any of DFW's data is to be believed. They're biased, and they've been making stuff up about bears and bear hunting for years. The significance is that it shows that DFW's own data does not support a bear hunt. Although I'm the VP of Legal Affairs for the BEAR Group and attorney for both the BEAR Group and APLNJ, I think the most unbiased scientist would look at this data and say that it can't be said to support the DFW's contention that a hunt will help reduce the bear population.

Speaking of unbiased scientists, today's press release comes on the heels of a press release on a report by Dr. Edward Tavss, a chemsitry professor at Rutgers University, that shows that bear complaints in NJ have actually been decreasing, not increasing as the DFW would have the public believe. The bear complaints were inflated by DFW when they counted many complaints twice or even three times. Dr. Tavss is neither a hunter nor an animal activist. He became interested when he heard conflicting information from the two sides in 2005, and decided to investigate the matter himself.

In 2005, Dr. Tavss came out with a report that compiled data from around North America that shows that bear hunting does not reduce bear complaints. Only non-lethal management has been proven effective for reducing human/bear conflicts.

So in short, the data shows:

  • Bear hunting does not reduce nuisance complaints;
  • Black bear complaints in NJ have been decreasing, not increasing; and
  • Bear hunting causes the bear population to increase, not decrease.

The Policy has not yet been published in the NJ Register, which is required to make it official, but the publication is expected on November 15, 2010. The Fish & Game Council has a bear hunt scheduled to begin on December 6, 2010.

What You Can Do: You don't have to be a New Jersey resident to speak up for NJ black bears. To learn what you can do, visit the BEAR Group website.

Don Farrall / Getty Images

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November 8, 2010 at 5:29 pm
(1) Papa Bear says:

My favorite bear is the one that is stewing in the pot.

November 9, 2010 at 4:05 am
(2) Linda says:

There’s so much bad science out there that is used to support false claims — science that clearly has no basis in reality. But few of us have the time, inclination, understanding or resources to research for ourselves and so we take these statements at face value. Thank you Doris for digging deeper and presenting the facts from various sources. You’re the voice and the advocate the black bears need.

November 9, 2010 at 8:04 am
(3) Lori says:

How can paragraph 3 start “I’m not saying that bear hunting actually increases the bear populations…” then one of the points in the concluding summary is “Bear hunting causes the bear population to increase, not decrease.”

You were more on track with the statement that started paragraph 3. You do NOT know what CAUSED the increase in population. You DO know that bear hunting has NOT DECREASED the population as promised. That statement alone should be enough to support your point without making wild claims that hunting INCREASES the bear population.

November 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm
(4) animalrights says:

Thank you for your comment, Lori.

The point in the summary is preceded by, “So in short, the data shows . . .” Again, I’m not saying I agree with the data. Just pointing out what the data shows.


November 10, 2010 at 5:59 am
(5) Lori says:

The numbers presented do not in any way indicate a CAUSE for the trend of increasing bear population. They *only* show that the population is increasing. The increase could be due to any of a number of causes. There might have been a couple really good years for resources (food/water). There might be hormones in the water causing more births. You can’t tell from a simple population survey what the CAUSE of the population trend is.

The only accurate statement that can be written is…

So in short, the data shows:
– Bear populations are increasing.

If you want an editorialized comment, you could accurately say:

- Bear populations are INCREASING despite the claims by hunting proponents that allowing hunting would decrease, or at least stabilize, the bear population.

This allows the reader to infer negative things about bear hunting (such as the hunting proponents don’t know what they are talking about — or maybe they’re even lying), without you having to make inaccurate, unsubstantiated claims.

November 10, 2010 at 11:54 pm
(6) Doris says:

Hi, Lori,

If the cause for the increase in the bear population is food or water, those factors should have been taken into consideration when the DFW said that we would have 2,694 bears in 2009. Natural fluctuations should have been taken into account.

Furthermore, the DFW has said that natural fluctations in available natural food would not create dramatic fluctuations in the bear population.

If the cause is hormones in the water, then we’d see a very dramatic changes in the populations of many species in the area. And that would be one scary river!

The only factor that is different from the graph they created in 2005 and not taken into account is the fact that there was a hunt in 2005.


December 8, 2010 at 7:39 pm
(7) Ingrid says:

Doris, thank you so much for addressing this issue. Animals will, indeed, reproduce to fill and exceed the niche that’s created through extermination or hunting. I find most of the propaganda surrounding population control through hunting to be disingenuous and opportunistic. But there’s orchestrated PR effort to convince the non-hunting public of the validity of these measures. It’s tragic how humans resort to violent means as first resort practices, often for dubious underlying reasons.

March 2, 2012 at 6:55 pm
(8) Bear rights says:

I’m totally against bear hunting!

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