New York Times says bears getting too close

The Gray Lady tackles bear problem in New Jersey and New York

Black Bear pic from NRAHuntersRights.orgNew York Times reporter Lisa Foderaro looks at the change in attitude when it comes to bear hunting in New York and New Jersey …

Trying to Lure Hunters as Bears Get Too Close

Newton, New Jersey – State wildlife officials here are trying to get the word out: Bear tastes good.

Hunters who bring in a bear to be weighed when the season starts in December will even receive a cookbook with recipes like “bear satay on a stick” and “grilled bear loin with brown sugar paste.”

“It’s tasty,” Kelcey Burguess, the bear project leader and principal biologist for the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, said of the meat. “It tastes like beef. I like cooking the ribs slowly.”

The object is not really to get more people to cook bear; it is to get more people to shoot one.

In 2010, in an effort to deal with its growing bear population, and over the objections of animal rights activists, the State of New Jersey reintroduced bear hunting, with a six-day season to run for five consecutive years. Wildlife officials estimated in 2010 that there were 3,400 bears living north of Interstate 80, which divides the state.

Darsh Patel and four friends were in a nature preserve Sunday.Black Bear Kills Rutgers Student During a Hike in New JerseySEPT. 22, 2014
But hunting has proved a thorny management tool. That first year, 592 black bears were killed and taken to weigh stations like the one here at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Sussex County. But each year since, the number has dropped, and in 2013, just 251 bears were brought in.

Unlike deer hunting, which many sportsmen make an annual ritual, bear hunting tends to be a one-time event — a hunter gets his or her trophy and does not return for another one. The process is expensive, whether having the animal butchered for meat or enlisting the services of a taxidermist. And dragging a 400-pound bear out of the woods is no small task. (In 2011, a hunter hauled in an 829-pound black bear, the largest on record in the state.)

“The first year we had people from South Jersey come up for the novelty of it, and then they realized that it’s not that easy,” said Larry Herrighty, assistant director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, part of the Department of Environmental Protection.

In New York, the state issued a 10-year black bear management plan in May that extended the firearms season in the Catskills and the Western Hudson Valley by 16 days in September and also opened up new areas for bear hunting upstate. The plan seeks to keep the Adirondack bear population stable, while reducing the population of the Catskills.

The number of bears killed annually has grown slightly, rising to 1,358 in 2013, from 1,117 in 2007. And like New Jersey, New York limits hunters to one bear per season.

The New Jersey bear hunts, which are allowed in four zones that cover six northern counties, have reduced the population, now estimated at 2,500 north of Interstate 80. And over the years, the incidence of so-called Category 1 incidents, involving home break-ins and agricultural damage, has trended downward.

Read the rest of Foderaro’s look at bear problems in New York and New Jersey on the New York Times website.

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