New Jersey black bear hunt debate rekindled after woman attacked, dog killed

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A mother bear and cubs traveerse a log pile

SPARTA TOWNSHIP, NJ – Police have reported an 81-year-old woman was attacked and injured, her dog killed by a black bear attack while taking out her garbage Monday evening. Police said that shortly after 3 7:00 p.m., police officers responded to the Echo Drive home on the report of a black bear attack.

The woman reported two bears eating out of her garbage cans and as her English Springer ran towards them, one bear swatted at the dog while the other one ran off.

Police reported the woman suffered injuries to her head and leg, consistent with bites and scratches.

The attack has rekindled New Jersey’s debate over an annual black bear hunt which was ended at the order of Governor Phil Murphy. In 2018, Murphy ceased black bear hunts on state-owned lands to ‘protect an endangered species’.

“There will be no bear hunt this year, period. I can say that definitively,” Murphy told reporters in September. The annual bear hunt in New Jersey began in 2010 as the once rare species in the Garden State began growing in numbers, causing dangerous interactions with humans and pets.

According to Fish and Game Council board member Phil Brodhecker, the New Jersey black bear population has significantly increased with black bear sightings across all 21 counties several years in a row.

“We have a very prolific bear population in North Jersey,” Brodhecker told Larry Mendte earlier this year in an interview. “And they’re expanding from where there’s not enough room up there (North Jersey) and they’re expanding throughout the state.”

“It was inevitable,” he said. “We knew it was going to happen. There was no control for the population based on the way the population growth is.”

Murphy promised to use non-lethal and humane alternatives to reduce the bear population, but to date, has not delivered on his promise to reduce the population to keep residents safe.

The governor had blamed the increase in human to bear interactions on the pandemic because bears explored further out as people were locked in their homes during the 2020-21 Murphy lockdown.

Brodhecker discredited Murphy’s unscientific speculation. He instead blames Murphy for banning bear hunting on state lands, thereby reducing the recent bear hunts to levels that were not significant enough to reduce the population.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie openly supported the annual bear hunt.