The New Jersey Division of Fish and Game has approved a four-day extension of the current year’s bear hunt.
It begins at dawn Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 6:49 a.m. and is to end on Saturday, Dec. 21 at one half hour after sunset.
The announcement was made by the division Sunday afternoon.
This is the third year of extension of the hunt.
The 14.7 percent of bears killed in the hunt fell short of the division’s anticipated figure of 20 percent.
If this rises to 30 percent any time during the four-day extension period, the hunt would be stopped immediately, the division said.
Bear tagging is used as a wildlife management aid and relies on the percentage of tagged bears taken annually to update the estimate of the total bear population, according to the state.
The bear population estimate peaked to around 3,500 when the hunt was resumed in 2010.
Since then it fell to an estimated number of 2,000 at the beginning of the 2019 hunt, according to the state.
According to the agency, there were 302 bears killed this year, 265 in October, and 37 in December before the four-day extension was announced.
There were 636 bears killed in 2016 and 409 in 2017, the final year that hunting was allowed on state land.
Originally the state’s approved bear hunt allowed a six-day firearm hunt that was concurrent with the six-day hunt in December.
In 2016 it was changed to include two phases that included a bow and muzzleloader hunt on six days in October with a six-day firearms season extension in December.
In a press release Monday, the New Jersey Sierra Club denounced the extension and called on Gov. Phil Murphy to end the hunt immediately.
“Over 300 bears have been killed under Gov. Murphy’s watch. Enough is enough,” Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittle said in the release. “Murphy must cancel the bear hunt this week. Since the 2010 hunt, there have been 4,089 bears killed. The bear hunt was initiated initially to get rid of aggressive and nuisance bears and the numbers show that they have dropped. There’s no reason to be killing the same number of bears this year. Murphy has the authority to stop the hunt just like his predecessors did, and yet he is still doing nothing to stop it.”
Citing the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Bear Activity Report, the Sierra Club said that bear sightings and nuisance numbers have dropped in 2019 compared to 2018.
There was a 12.5 percent drop in damage and nuisance cases.
From Jan. 1 through Sept. 21, there were 139 sightings and 103 nuisance cases, according to the report.
That compared to 2018, where the report said there were 180 sightings and 703 damage and nuisance cases.
These numbers are much lower compared to reports from 2010 where there were 970 sightings and 2,065 damage and nuisance cases, where 742 were nuisance cases, the Sierra Club’s release said.
“New Jersey needs to transition from hunting to a real a real management plan, one that includes strong education and uses warning signs in the region, education materials at trail heads, enforcing not feeding bears, and garbage management,” tittle said in the release. “We also need to teach people how to bear-proof their property, including the importance of having no garbage at night and bear proof containers. These will do a lot more in managing the bear population than having an unnecessary hunt.”
(Charles Kim contributed to this report)