Oroho, Space, Wirths denounce Murphy’s bear hunt order
Lawmakers say dangers increase for residents
Sussex County — State Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths (all R-Sussex) today called Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order stopping bear hunts on state lands a dangerous play that increases the likelihood of human encounters with the animals.
“The Murphy administration needs to put aside politics and personal feelings about hunting and look at the bigger picture,” said Oroho. “This issue is and always will be a serious matter of public safety. There are a number of examples, including people being killed.”
Oroho said that when Gov. Jon Corzine canceled the hunt in 2006, adults and children were afraid to go outside because the bear population was not adequately controlled, and sightings in neighborhoods occurred multiple times daily.
“We don’t want to go back to not managing the bear population properly,” Oroho said. “It is ironic that when a bear is sighted in urban settings, schools get locked down and multiple police departments respond to tranquilize the bear before relocating it. If safety isn’t an issue what’s the reason for concern?”
“This is a self-serving attempt to placate extremists while increasing the likelihood of a dangerous encounter with a bear,” Space said. “Once again, Murphy is more concerned about politics. Hunts effectively controlled the bear population since 2010, and reports of nuisance and damage were cut in half during that time.”
There are 3,500 black bears in northern New Jersey, according to estimates. More than 400 bears were taken in last year’s hunt, bringing the total to 3,400 since hunting was resumed eight years ago.
“Already the most densely populated state, New Jersey also has the densest bear population in North America,” Wirths said. “There are too many bears for the environment to support, so they wander out of the woods and into neighborhoods in search of food and shelter. There’s nothing humane about bears starving in the wild. It is a recipe for disaster that can be mitigated with responsible hunting controls.”
State wildlife officials estimated the bear population could double by 2022 if hunting was discontinued. Most bears taken last year were killed in Sussex and Warren counties.
The legislators also make note that they will work with their colleagues to stop any legislation that prohibits a bear hunt and/or changes the Fish and Game Council.
“Legislators from District 24 successfully helped lead the ‘resistance’ to such legislation a decade ago,” Wirths said. “Steve, Parker, and myself are prepared to do so again.”