Trenton Times Prints OpEd on Bear Hunt
Bear hunt helped balance population, available habitat.
By Anthony P Mauro, Sr (c) 2011
USA –-(Ammoland.com)- According to opinion polls, the majority of New Jerseyans were in favor of the recent black bear culling that ended last Saturday.
Even New Jersey's highest court supported the hunt by ruling that it is “a safe, legal and responsible use of wildlife resources, as well as a legitimate and effective means to control overabundant game species in a cost-effective manner.”
Also, candidate Chris Christie was voted into office with his unambiguous support of a bear culling.
The actions of a small number of people in opposition to the hunt certainly added drama, with protests and madcap tales of conspiracy between the governor and me. But these antics were designed to exploit people's emotions; they were the sleight of hand meant to tempt our gullibility and distract us from applying reason.
The truth is that we are experiencing a burgeoning bear population at the same time as we are experiencing dwindling habitat for them. This is causing increased reports of incidents of bear-human conflict — a public health and safety issue. The solution is either to increase available habitat for bears or cull bears to bring the population in line with available habitat. Members of the vocal opposition to the culling did not offer to raze their homes and return the acreage to wilderness for the expanding bear population. In fact, they did not offer a single solution to reverse diminishing habitat. They provided only firebrand rhetoric. It took the leadership of our state's wildlife managers, the courts and the governor to address a festering situation that is as unsuitable for bears as it is for people.
As a result of the hunt, the number of bears that were culled fell into the range projected by professionals in the field of biology and wildlife management. The use of hunting is not only a straightforward solution to reducing the bear population, it also helps to provide equilibrium to the ecosystem while supplying food to those who opt to hunt versus buying slaughtered cow, sheep, pig, turkey, fowl or fish at the food market.
A study commissioned by the Division of Fish and Wildlife and performed by wildlife biologists at East Stroudsburg University put the number of bears in two study areas of northwest New Jersey at almost 3,500. A reported 589 bears were killed during the hunt, which is 17 percent of the area's population. In spite of the culling, biologists believe that at least 800 cubs will be born in winter dens that will emerge next spring. In other words, the culling was designed to reduce the rate of black bear population growth; there will be more black bears next year, but the number will more likely be approximately 3,700 instead of 4,300, had there been no hunt.
A few animal-rights activists bitterly blamed the Department of Environmental Protection transition team for recommending the hunt. I was a member of the transition team, and I can attest that its members were focused on “big picture” issues, not black bears. After much discussion, one of the recommendations we made was for the DEP to renew its focus on natural resource management and conservation. We envisioned a new, self-sustaining department of natural resources whose priority would be the environment and the practice of stewardship of forests and threatened and endangered species habitat. The transition team report is public information.
It makes sense that we continue to use hunting as one of the key tools to manage a balance between bear populations and available habitat. It helps to open areas for bears to recede from human contact while providing sustenance to the hunter.
Hunting helps to ease the ever-increasing number of bear-human conflicts and provides a measure of public safety.
Anthony P. Mauro, Sr, (also known as “Ant” to friends and associates) is Chairman and co-founder of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.
In addition to NJOA, Ant's commitment to the principles of sustainable use of natural resources and stewardship for the environment helped to found the New Jersey Angling & Hunting Conservation Caucus. The NJAHC is the first outdoor caucus of its kind in New Jersey and is designed to educate opinion leaders and policy makers of the principles of conservation and the benefits that confer to the state's wildlife and ecology.
A lifelong resident of New Jersey, Ant is an international big game hunter and avid conservationist. He has authored two books on conservation and hunting, including “Color The Green Movement Blue“.