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October 17, 2000

For more information contact:
Jim Sciascia at 609-984-6295

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife was recently honored for its black bear management efforts with the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' (IAFWA) prestigious Ernest Thompson Seton Award. The award was presented at the 90th Annual IAFWA Meeting held September 15-19, 2000 in Indianapolis, Indiana and is the second award New Jersey has received for its black bear management and education campaign this year.

"The IAFWA Awards Committee unanimously chose New Jersey as this year's award winner," said Wayne F. MacCallum, IAFWA Awards Committee Chairman and Director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "The educational outreach effort undertaken by the Garden State based on scientific sound data is a model for the country."

"It is gratifying to have the Division recognized for its professionalism in managing the challenging issue of a rapidly growing bear population in a densely populated state like New Jersey," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "This award is a tribute to the knowledge, experience and dedication of Division staff members who deal with this issue on a daily basis."

In response to a growing bear population and increasing conflict with humans, the Division began a formal educational campaign in 1997 to inform residents about the state's growing black bear population and how to minimize negative bear-human interactions.

Working cooperatively with the Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Parks and Forestry, the Division of Fish and Wildlife developed educational materials for homeowners and campers to provide information about bears and ways to reduce negative encounters with these animals. Among the materials printed and distributed were 50,000 full-color "You are in Bear Country" brochures designed specifically for campers and 50,000 "Living in Bear Country" brochures for homeowners.

Plastic signs were also developed and posted on state park picnic tables to urge visitors to secure food and dispose of trash properly. Other signs warning against approaching or feeding bears were posted throughout campgrounds. The same educational brochures and signs were also distributed to private campgrounds and local boy scout troops, and special regulations were developed to prevent bear feeding and leaving food exposed to bears in state parks.

In addition to the brochures and 40,000 educational signs, the Division produced and distributed 20,000 bumper stickers, 10,000 book covers and 150,000 bookmarks to campers, schools, municipalities, libraries, parks and environmental education centers in northern New Jersey. This literature contained general information about bears while stressing the importance of never feeding these animals. In 1999, six public service announcements providing information on preventing conflicts with bears were recorded on compact disks and distributed to approximately 150 radio stations in the tri-state area.

In 1997, the Division and New Jersey Network (NJN) received an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for the documentary Bear Country, New Jersey. The film explains the nature and history of black bear in the Garden State and follows Division biologists through their yearly cycle of research. More than 200 copies of the film have been distributed to schools, libraries and environmental education centers in addition to the hundreds of copies sold by NJN. It has been broadcast numerous times on NJN and PBS affiliates around the nation and internationally.

The Division has also conducted more than 70 public presentations on living with black bears for various schools, municipalities, service organizations, parks, camps and clubs. It is estimated that nearly 7,000 individuals were exposed to this form of outreach. Since the educational campaign, the Division has also disseminated a continuous stream of news releases and other materials alerting the public to issues regarding New Jersey's growing black bear population. In each release, the Division's primary message has been to discourage feeding and urge residents to properly "bear-proof" their surroundings. Additionally, the Division has addressed hundreds of media-related inquiries and interviews regarding black bears, as well as participated in numerous township meetings. Finally, the agency uses each telephone call from a citizen reporting a bear sighting or complaint as an opportunity to educate residents and visitors to bear country about how to avoid negative encounters with bears.

The Ernest Thompson Seton Award (ETSA) is bestowed upon the state, provincial or federal agency which, in the opinion of IAFWA, has brought the need for and benefit of scientific wildlife management to the public's attention. The ETSA award, named after the famous American naturalist/writer, was developed to recognize the agency which has taken a strong position in support of the integrity of its professional program.

Founded in 1902, IAFWA is a quasi-governmental organization of public agencies charged with the protection and management of North America's fish and wildlife resources. Members include the fish and wildlife agencies of the states, provinces and federal governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico. IAFWA's mission is to promote sound resource management and strengthen federal, state and private cooperation in protecting and managing fish and wildlife and their habitats in the public interest. IAFWA works on behalf of the state fish and wildlife agencies to develop, support and defend legislation and regulations which improve the well being of North America's fish and wildlife.