On Monday, New Jersey's six-day recreational bear hunt began. The Division of Fish and Wildlife sometimes pretends that they're trying to control the bear population or trying to reduce bear complaints, but they admit that the bears are not biologically overpopulated and at least one DFW biologist admits that the hunt has nothing to do with complaints. According to DFW, most hunters will have the head and/or hide taxidermied, which makes it a trophy hunt.
Not that it would be better if the bears were being killed mainly for meat. And some hunters do eat bear meat. For animal rights activists, the problem is that a bear has his own rights and interests, which don't include being killed for our rug or dinner.
But even if you're not an animal rights activist, this hunt is a farce. The hunt is scientifically flawed and the bears are merely just another "resource" for hunters to "harvest," because state wildlife management agencies are run by hunters, for hunters. When DFW biologists talk about their "science," they're just looking for evidence that the bear population can sustain a hunt; not whether a hunt is necessary. This is why it's a recreational hunt.
There are so many smaller issues that reveal the hypocrisy behind this hunt. For example, hunting is a dying sport, and the Animal Protection League (of which I am the Director of Legal Affairs) has issued a report that shows that bear hunts are being used to recruit hunters. State wildlife management agencies have an interest in recruiting and retaining hunters because their funding is partially dependent on selling hunting permits. Also, the best way to prevent human/bear conflicts is nonlethal management, but the hunters want to keep the bear complaints high as a way of justifying their hunt to the media and the public, so they don't put much effort into effectively reducing bear complaints. Baiting is another problem, because putting out stinky, rotting human food in the woods is bad for bears, other wildlife and the ecosystem in general.
What you can do: NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak has introduced a bear smart bill that would ban baiting and require better garbage control in NJ. The bill already has the backing of The Record, via their December 4, 2012 editorial, "The Record: No More Hunts." If you are a New Jersey resident, please contact your state legislators (find your legislators and their contact info here) and urge them to support S.2369, the New Jersey Bear Smart Bill.
Never contacted your legislators before? It's easy. Learn more about grassroots lobbying here.
Image © Doris Lin 2012, licensed to About.com, Inc.