Commissioners call for state to act on bear problem

Newton. Sussex County Commissioners Jill Space and Dawn Fantasia reiterated calls for for the state of New Jersey to reinstate the animal bear hunt that expired when the state’s bear management plan expired in 2021. Most of New Jersey’s bear population is located in the northwest portion of the state.

| 03 Oct 2022 | 04:48

Two Sussex County Commissioners on Sept. 28 called for the state government to recognize the problem bears face to county residents and resume the black bear hunt.

There has been no management since New Jersey’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy expired, ending the state’s annual black bear hunt. Commissioner Jill Space, whose family owns Space Farms in Wantage, said there are about 4,500 to 5,000 bears living in New Jersey, with most of that population in the northwest corner of the state.

“With no management plan, this population will double in just a couple of years,” Space said. “Gov. Murphy says to follow the science and our wildlife biologists are the ones who know how important it is to maintain and control a healthy population of animal species in New Jersey, like they do with deer, turkeys, foxes, etc. A habitat can only sustain a certain number of species before it becomes unbalanced. Soon, we’ll start to see more bears being hit by cars or breaking into people’s homes and attacking the family pets, which we already know are already done on a daily basis here in Sussex County.”

On May 11, a 34-year-old woman in Lafayette was attacked by a bear while checking her mail. She was treated for wounds to her arm and butt and was released from the hospital.

In January, two Sparta Township pets were killed in separate bear attacks in the space of three weeks.

Commissioner Dawn Fantasia said the county has submitted a comprehensive black bear management policy to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette months ago that calls for hunting as part of the policy, but also calls for education.

“But that seems to fall upon deaf ears,” she said.

Space indicated the hunt could also have economic benefits as hunters would travel from other areas and support local gas stations, sports shops, diners, taxidermists, butchers and others.

She also said as zoo owners, her family has received numerous calls and texts about bear-related issues, including dead bears found on the side of the road.

“The governor really needs to pay attention to what’s going on up here in Sussex County and do something about it before we lose human life,” she said.