TRENTON, NJ –-(Ammoland.com)- After reading about New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel's belief that a bear hunt is unwarranted and unfounded because it will not help to manage bears in New Jersey (op-ed, “Unbearable hunt,” Dec. 8), as well as similar comments from others in the animal rights community, it occurred to me that one has to overlook some very compelling evidence to the contrary in order to cultivate such faith.
To reach the animal activists' conclusion, one must disagree with the findings of both a Superior Court and Appellate Court judge, each having ruled that the state of New Jersey had put together a viable, comprehensive bear management plan. The two courts agreed that the hunt should proceed.
People would also need to turn a deaf ear to avoid hearing the pervading wisdom of biologists, wildlife managers and state agencies across America that argue persuasively in favor of hunting as one of several necessary bear management tools.
To agree with the conclusion of animal activists, one must close one's eyes to the negative psychological effects associated with human-bear conflicts in residential, commercial and camping venues. It also requires an exceptional degree of callousness to ignore claims of economic loss caused by bears to agriculture-related businesses. This insensitivity would also extend to financial harm that would befall employers and employees of hotels, camps and other businesses as a result of lost tourism should a bear-human conflict result in injury or worse.
To agree with the animal activists requires one to show complete disregard for human safety. We would have to be ignorant about the ways black bears respond to periods of declining food sources and lack understanding about the perils associated with bear habituation — the reasons for increased bear-human conflicts. They may, in fact, also be the cause of recent livestock and pet deaths by black bears as well as reported physical encounters between bears and humans.
Animal activists want to promote the rights of bears, but to do so at the expense of the public health is emotional thinking. Difficulty distinguishing between emotions and thoughts may be the reason for animal activists' sensational claims that the bear hunt is a grand conspiracy of New Jersey's governor to curry favor with hunters, roll back environmental progress and turn the Garden State over to developers and polluters. Regardless of their origins, they are radical accusations.
Emotional thinking may also be the spark that ignited a handful of activists to hold a bear hunt protest in Trenton last week. They lectured using spurious claims based on manipulated data and research. They even earned the Truth-O-Meter “Pants on Fire” rating from truth watchdog PolitiFact for their claim that 99 percent of New Jerseyans are against the bear hunt.
Finally, for the animal activist to believe that, during a time of dwindling habitat and prolific bear population expansion, bear-human conflict can be managed solely by garbage containment and public education is to defy common sense and rely on wishful thinking. While limiting food sources and educating the public about black bears is useful, it does nothing to address the primary reasons for increased bear-human conflicts: growth of the bear population, loss of habitat and habituation.
Hunting is the tool that addresses these causes.
The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance believes that a black bear hunt is a responsible, pragmatic, environmentally sound, science-based method for bringing the black bear population in line with the cultural carrying capacity of available habitat, which is the goal of environmental stewards. It also provides food for the hunter and his or her family while aversively conditioning bears, which provides a measure of lasting public safety.
Anthony P. Mauro is chairman and co-founder of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Conservation Foundation and New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Environmental Projects, dedicated to conservation and environmental stewardship.Anthony P. Mauro
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