Division Announces Public Meetings on
New Black Bear Management Plan

September 9, 1997

for more information contact:
Fred Carlson at 609-292-6685

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife will host a series of public meetings throughout the state beginning Saturday, September 27. The meetings will highlight the Division's newly developed 1997 New Jersey Black Bear Management Plan and related issues concerning black bear in the Garden State.

"The Division's goal is to develop a management plan that not only assures the continued survival of a black bear population in New Jersey, but also addresses the property damage and safety concerns of residents and agriculturists," said Division Director Bob McDowell.

At the heart of New Jersey black bear management plan, which has been developed over the past year, are the results of years of intensive research on black bear in the northern part of the state. Since 1981, nearly 260 adult bears have been trapped and tagged by the Division, in addition to 300 newborn cubs tagged at their winter dens. Most of the adult females and many males have been radio collared and monitored to provide information on reproduction, survival, mortality and other factors affecting the population.

"Currently, in the primary range there are between 450 and 550 black bear in New Jersey," said Patricia McConnell, Division wildlife biologist and black bear expert. "This primary range includes the northern counties of Morris, Sussex, Passaic and Warren. These areas have large tracts of undeveloped, forested land covered With dense rhododendron, mountain laurel, hemlock and food-producing hardwood trees and shrubs which provide the bears with food and refuge."

According to McConnell, black bear have reached a critical stage in the Garden State. The population has increased steadily since the 1970s and so has New Jersey’s human population, currently rated as the densest in the nation. Habitat for black bear is continually being lost or affected by residential and commercial development. An essential part of the management plan is to identify habitat important to bears and make that information available to planning boards, township environmental commissions, and to private and public groups who buy and protect open space.

There are several management options or combinations of options in the management plan to accomplish the previously mentioned goals and allow the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife to continue its commitment to maintaining a black bear population. Currently, education is the primary strategy used to increase awareness of black bear behavior, habitat needs and ways of avoiding conflict.

Other options contained in the management plan include establishing either a statewide ban on feeding black bear or encouraging individual communities to pass bans. The management plan also advocates expansion of the proactive work begun in 1995 in Worthington State Forest to encourage campgrounds and private communities to install bear proof dumpsters. It also recommends seminars for beekeepers on protecting their beeyards. Another strategy suggests compensating landowners for damage to livestock, beehives and crops; a strategy that would require an innovative source of funding. One other strategy calls for an amendment to the Division's existing nuisance bear policy that currently prescribes trapping and/or conditioning with irritant sprays, rubber buckshot, relocation and, lastly, euthanasia of bears who persist in causing serious damage. The proposed amendment would allow a landowner experiencing very specific types of significant damage to kill the offending bear.

The plan combines many of the above strategies with an overall proposal to reduce and control the number of black bears in the state. Strategies to reduce the population include reestablishing a limited hunting season for black bear, using contraceptive techniques (if proven safe and effective in wild bears) and relocating excess black bear from the northern part of the state to several suitable and historically occupied areas within the Pinelands.

Following is a list of the public meetings scheduled. Registration is required. Call 1-888-45BEARS (1-888-452-3277) beginning September 13.

September 27, 1997
9 a.m. - noon
Sussex County Vo-Tech
Comer of Rt. 94 & White Lake Road in Sparta

September 29, 1997
6-9:30 p.m.
Rutgers University - Cook College Campus Center
College Farm Road in New Brunswick

October 1, 1997
6-9:30 p.m.
Macopin Middle School
Highlander Drive in West Milford

October 2, 1997
6-9:30 p.m.
North Warren Regional High School
Lambert Road in Blairstown

October 7, 1997
6-9:30 p.m.
Burlington County College - Parker Center
Rt. 530 in Pemberton

The 120-page 1997 New Jersey BIack Bear Management Plan will be available for review at county libraries and Division offices statewide on or about September 15. For a summary of the document write to:

Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife
P.O. Box 400
Trenton, NJ 08625-0400
Attn: Bear Summary

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