Public Comment Period Begins for Second NJ Bear Hunt



You have a view on the bear hunt, pro or con? Now is the time to make it known.
The story below also points out why it is important to keep your dogs leashed when you are out hiking. Also seems the bear population is about half of what it was originally thought in NJ.



Date: 040523

By Jeff Linkous, Associated Press, 5/21/04

Trenton - Rob Skrypek's West Milford home has a reinforced fence and
new rules for what goes on inside it.

His dog, Duke, doesn't go out in the yard without someone there, and
the family's trash cans - cleaned with bleach to neutralize any
odors - are always kept in a secure place.

The changes are among several made by the 36-year-old father of two
after a bloody scrape with a black bear a year ago that was set in
motion when he tackled the bruin that pounced on his yellow Labrador.

"People ask me nowadays, 'Would you do anything to help your dog?' I
don't know if I'd go to hand-to-hand combat," said Skrypek, who still
feels the effects of some shoulder and wrist injuries suffered in the
May 23, 2003, attack.

Nearly six months after New Jersey's first bear hunt in 33 years, a
large bruin population and continued encounters with people remain
among reasons cited by backers for a second hunt.

A 2004 season is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 6-11. A 60-day public
comment period began Monday, with a public hearing set for June 8.

In March, the state Fish and Game Council proposed the hunt, brushing
aside Environmental Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell's recommendation
to skip a 2004 season.

Last year, despite protests and thousands of letters to the
governor's office, Campbell and Gov. James E. McGreevey supported a
six-day hunt as a way to help reduce what was believed to be a
burgeoning bear population - estimated then at 3,200 - and an alarming
increase in bear-human encounters.

State wildlife officials say 328 bears were killed in last year's
hunt. About 300 cubs are expected to be born this year.

Campbell has said better data, developed in part from research
conducted amid last December's hunt, helped state wildlife officials
refine the population figure to about half the previous estimate.

Although the current bear estimate would sustain a hunt, Campbell in
March urged greater use of public awareness programs and more
stringent enforcement of a state law prohibiting the feeding bears,
and requiring home and business owners to secure trash receptacles.

A spokeswoman for Campbell said Friday the commissioner had not
changed his mind.

Passaic County officials plan to subsidize the cost of bear-proof
trash containers, paying half the $50 and $180 costs for the 30- and
95-gallon receptacles, said Lynda Smith of the West Milford-based Bear
Education and Resource Group, which teaches residents in the bear
range how to co-exist with the bruins.

"We're hoping other counties will follow suit," Smith said.

New Jersey's bear population is largely concentrated in its
mountainous northwest. But this week, the Department of Environmental
Protection confirmed a bear sighting as far south as Manchester in
Ocean County.

Also this week, a Hudson County lawmaker proposed legislation to
revamp the Fish and Game council, the autonomous 11-member panel
composed of sportsmen, farmers and private residents that regulates
New Jersey's hunting and fishing seasons.

Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone's bill would expand the council to 13
members and give the environmental commissioner a seat.

The Democrat's measure would also open five seats to gubernatorial
appointees recommended by three animal groups, including Smith's

"It's a giant step forward in making it (the council) more balanced,"
Smith said.

The bill, A-2852, like similar legislation introduced earlier this
month, is drawing criticism.

"It puts the commissioner as the czar over all wildlife, whether it
be hunting or bringing back the eagles. It politicizes wildlife," said
George Howard, a game council member and retired director of the state
Division of Fish and Wildlife, which falls under the DEP.

Howard said the game council was formed to keep politics out of
wildlife matters.

Other bills pending in the Assembly and Senate propose a five-year
moratorium on a bear hunt. Similar legislation stalled last year.

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