Why New Jersey Black Bears Need You

Black Bears in New jersey

In the 1970s our state’s bear population was virtually wiped out by trophy hunting, thanks to the pro-hunting stance of the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW).

Because black bears are among the slowest reproducing mammals in North America, it took over three decades for the population to recover. And as it did so, more and more people moved into the New Jersey Highlands—fragmenting the very heart of bear country. The need for public awareness was great. And so in 1992, APLNJ started our Bear Education And Resource (BEAR) program.

Since then, through our educational, legislative and lobbying efforts have we've stopped 8 hunts and prevented 7. Three governors stopped the hunts in 2000-2002, 2004 and 2006-2009.

We are the only state in the country that has stopped a bear hunt. We can do it again IF we stay involved and active and if the administration sees this as an important issue. Governor Christie will not respond, but his staff and future governors are watching.

The Truth About Bear Hunting

Bear hunting takes place in our state under the guise of public safety or property protection. Make no mistake; BEAR HUNTING IS ABOUT NEITHER. It's not about population control either. It's about having a head to "display" on a wall or having a rug on a floor. This is a trophy hunt, pure and simple.

Our commitment to permanent black bear protection remains strong. We are continuing our educational efforts to towns in bear country, are spearheading Bear Smart legislation and have produced numerous reports for legislators.

Edward A. Tavss, Ph.D. - National Research Supports Nonlethal

In 2005, Dr. Tavss studied thirteen sites across the United States and Canada. His study proved conclusively that hunting black bears did not result in decreasing complaints. In fact, it correlated with increasing complaints. The nonviolent approach, focusing on garbage control resulted in decreasing complaints. See this vital report here.

In 2010, Dr. Tavss wrote an Op-Ed that was published in two major newspapers. Dr. Tavss' reports and data was discussed on radio, television, newspapers, and township meetings. View the Op-Ed and see all the links referencing different media outlets here.

In 2010, Dr. Tavss produced another study demonstrating that the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife's surge in complaints, which was used to justify a black bear hunt, was proven to be a DECREASE in complaints, when the invalid interpretations of data, duplicate complaints and other erroneous duplicates were eliminated. See the 2010 study here.


In our Urban Wildlife Series report - The Black Bear - we demonstrate how the state is using black bears and a hunt as a means of recruiting hunters, illustrating the connection between a state agency and private corporate interests and ultimately showing the state's violation of the public trust.

keep fighting - now more than ever!

The Department of Environmental Protection issued a press release on April 21, 2011 about black bears. It was full of the usual rhetoric, giving some tips about living with bears, but not missing an opportunity to scare people. At the end of one of the paragraphs, they declared the bears will be killed on an annual basis.

bear photo

Excerpt: "...To deal with that issue, a New Jersey Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy was developed by the state's Fish and Game Council and approved last year by Commissioner Martin.

That policy emphasizes managing black bears through research and monitoring, non-lethal and lethal control of problem bears, public education on co-existing with bears, and includes an annual controlled hunt."

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is not going to spend one cent on nonlethal black bear management. Why? Well, they are mandated by law to provide recreational hunting to their constituents. According to the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Divisionn doesn't have the funds to fully implement a nonlethal black bear management plan.

We know if they spent less time researching and monitoring black bears for hunting purposes, they would have those funds. If they employed nonlethal black bear management practices, the complaints would be a thing of the past, as people would be co-existing peacefully with black bears without incident.

Expert Answers Questions about Bears

Dr. Stephen Stringham, a black bear expert produced the following Q&A for the Bear Group, dealing with reducing concerns surrounding bears. Please view it here.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife Black Bear Express

Ever wonder how bears get to southern areas of the state? A 1981 DFW report, states clearly that bears will never be able to re-populate sourthern New Jersey on their own. In this report, the Division proposed to take bears from other states. You will also read that by 1977, only 10 bears remained in New Jersey, a full seven years after the bear hunt was closed in 1970. See the full report by clicking here. This proves that the Division, through regulated hunting, every single bear living in New Jersey from 1958 - 1970.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife has admitted to moving and relocating bears, but we believe they have been relocating bears in greater numbers than reported. They have made it no secret that they want bear hunting throughout the state. As late as 2006, the map shown here demonstrates that Assunpink, in addition to almost all of southern New Jersey is within a proposed hunt area. Presently, Assunpink Wildlife Management area is home to several black bears relocated by the Division. On April 15, 2011, a black bear yearling, caught in a tree on the New Jersey Turnpike was relocated there. When questioned by a reporter about the potential of a bear hunt in this area, the Division said they have no plans for a bear hunt in that area. Their 2006 map proves otherwise.


1. Please continue to contact NJ Governor Chris Christie

Governor Chris Christie, PO Box 001, Trenton, NJ 08625

Phone: 609-292-6000 (Don't let them transfer you to the Division of Fish & Wildlife. Be firm that you want to leave a message for the Governor.)

Fax: 609-292-3454

Webmail: Click here (pick Environment, then Fish and Wildlife)

2. Please write letters to your local paper supporting the bears. Keep them short and keep them coming. Use the Facts and Talking Points listed below.

Facts and Talking points

PUBLIC SAFETY? In the history of our state no black bear has ever killed or seriously harmed any person. If there is a perceived threat to public safety due to human/bear interactions, then garbage control is the single most important and effective tool to reduce such interactions.

BEAR BIOLOGY: Bears are a self-regulating species. When they are denied access to unnatural foods, their reproductive rate goes down to what the environment can sustain. Black bears DO NOT OVERPOPULATE.

WASTE/ NONENFORCEMENT OF THE LAW: The DFW wasted $2 million in appropriations to enforce the black bear feeding ban. From 2005-2009, the Division's Bureau of Law Enforcement wrote 21,463 summonses, but only 9 on the bear feeding ban. In the 2005 comprehensive black bear management policy, the DFW reported the need to improve the feeding ban law, but in five years, and throughout the nonlethal program, no legislation was introduced, and lack of enforcement continues to exist.

FGC HELD ILLEGAL MEETINGS: In the "BEAR v NJ DEP" lawsuit initiated by the BEAR Group, an October 4, 2010 order from the court ordered that the NJ Fish and Game Council (FGC) provide a list of the dates of all meetings and minutes at which an "effective majority" of FGC members were present. We are hoping the courts will find the FGC violated the Open Public Meetings Act when they held secret meetings of the game committee to develop the 2010 Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy.

DFW BREAKS THE LAW: Since 1999, the Division of Fish and Wildlife failed to comply with statutory mandate (NJSA 23:2-2) to provide an annual report to the legislature. These reports are for fiscal responsibility and accountability and would be available to the public. UPDATE: We heard that DFW is working on this report. We are looking forward to its release. 

DFW COOKED THE BOOKS: In March of 2010, the DFW started reporting a huge surge in bear complaints and used this as justification for the 2010 bear hunt. A report released in October, 2010, from Rutgers University Professor Dr. Edward Tavss, proved bear complaints significantly declined. The reported surge in bear complaints resulted from invalid interpretations of data, duplicate complaints and other erroneous data, not from any actual increase in complaints or an increase in the bear population. See Dr. Tavss' report here: www.aplnj.org/EdTavss2010Study.pdf

HUNTING DOESN'T WORK: Dr. Tavss' previous 2005 study demonstrated that in every site studied, hunting failed to decrease complaints, while in these same sites, nonlethal methods worked in reducing complaints. See report here: http://www.aplnj.org/assets/pdf/TavssReport.pdf

BEARS HAVE MASSIVE SUPPORT: The official public comment period for the State's Comprehensive Black Bear Management (CBBM) Policy ended on June 18, 2010.  Of these, a whopping 6,484 (70%) were against the bear management policy and against bear hunting. Please use this in all your letters.

PUBLIC WANTS NONLETHAL: In April 2010, a poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found that a majority of NJ voters oppose opening a bear hunt, and oppose practices that were permitted in the state's previous two hunts, including shooting 10-month-old cubs, shooting mothers with cubs and baiting bears with food. Voters also overwhelmingly support non-lethal management. The Humane Society of the United States commissioned this poll.

CALL OFF HUNT: This hunt is strictly a recreational trophy hunt, a waste of taxpayer dollars, is cruel, doesn't solve a thing and the public doesn't want it.



Since 1988, the Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) has been educating New Jersey residents about the true nature and disposition of our native black bears. We were astounded by the overwhelming number of New Jerseyans who love bears. To be sure, there’s something about bears.

When the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) stopped bear hunting in 1970, they did so because regulated hunting killed every bear in the state. Since that time, the DFW has been working to reinstate and institutionalize bear hunting. Fortunately, massive public support for bears stopped several proposed hunts.

Desperate to overcome the public support bears had, the DFW began a public relations campaign designed to smear, slander, and malign our small timid population of bears. Well placed articles, written by hunters working for newspapers started to appear everywhere. Sensational headlines featuring bears were designed to frighten people into thinking New Jersey was overrun by marauding bears. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There has never been a single confirmed case of a death or serious injury caused by a black bear, in New Jersey. In fact, statistics show that black bears are far less dangerous than dogs, spiders, and sharks combined. Over two million residents live in bear country, in harmony with the bears.

APLNJ is working to dispel myths and eliminate irrational fears. Read on to learn all you can about black bears and join our efforts to protect them. Our work with the Coalition to Protect Black Bears in New Jersey is helping to create Bear Smart Communities throughout New Jersey.

National Research Endorses Nonlethal Solutions

photo of a bearNational research conducted by Dr. Edward Tavss, in 2005, shows that the only effective method to reduce nuisance complaints is the elimination of the food/attractants that lure bears into human environments.

This addresses the root of the issue–bears being attracted into human environments–rather than the symptom. Tavss’s data demonstrates that reducing the number of bears by hunting is ineffective in reducing nuisance complaints, as remaining bears will continue to be drawn into all environments where human provided food and attractants remain.

Click to read the full report or a synopsis.

Dr. Tavss showed us that the only effective way to reduce complaints is through nonlethal methods. Here are some other reasons why hunting doesn't work:

  • It does not address the root causes of conflicts, nuisance complaints, etc.
  • Bears are territorial. When they are killed either in hunts, DFW, or by the police, this allows new bears to move into the vacated territory.
  • States that have annual hunts continue to experience increasing nuisance complaints.
  • In states where bears have killed people (extremely rare occurrences), their bear hunts did not prevent these tragedies. Educational efforts and garbage containment would have.

There are hundreds of effective nonviolent ways to deter bears and coexist peacefully. This is where all of our energy and resources should be placed.


Facts about Bears

As the principal biologist of the Wildlife Research Institute, Lynn Rogers, Ph.D., has spent over 42 years studying black bears. Rogers has written over a hundred scientific articles on black bear behavior and ecology and has served as senior author on more peer-reviewed scientific articles on bears than anyone in the world. He has created several museum exhibits and has edited many scientific articles, books, and TV scripts.

Dr. Rogers is a world renowned black bear expert. Many of our members, including our director attended his Black Bear Field Study Course and cannot think of anyone better to educate you about bears.

Please click here to learn more about bears.


Bear Proofing Tips

By eliminating attractants and following these simple bear proofing tips, you can keep bears away from your home. When a community becomes Bear Smart, they can keep bears away from the neighborhood. It’s that simple.

Also, the reproduction rate of bears is reduced when access to unnatural foods is eliminated. Follow these tips to become a Bear Smart household:

  • Invest in a bear resistant container. Keep the cans outside of your house and NOT in the garage or shed.
  • Remove attractants from your property.
    • Remove bird feeders. If you must feed birds, do it between November and April, when most bears are denned. Clean up all debris and store the bird seed inside your house in air-tight containers.
    • Remove companion animal food from decks, kennels, and cages. Feed companion animals indoors.
    • Clean barbecue grills after each use and dispose of grease.
    • Rinse food containers before putting into the trash or recycling.
    • Harvest ripened fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.
    • Do not leave groceries or other attractants in your vehicles.
    • Never intentionally or unintentionally feed bears. Comply with the Black Bear Feeding Ban Law (P.L. 2002, Chapter 97, C.23:2A-14).
    • Do not leave accessible windows or doors open. Screens are not bear-proof.
    • Stop baiting practices that bring bears into our communities.
  • If you do see bears, do not talk nicely to them. Make them think you will harm them. They frighten easily. Use basic aversive-conditioning tactics to scare the bear, but this must be consistent and initially intense. Varying it up or down will habituate the bear and become ineffective.
    • Loud noises (coins in tin can, air horns, marine whistles, banging pots and pans) can scare bears. Vary these tactics and do not give up. Persistence is the key to keeping bears away.
    • Blast bears with a spray from the garden hose or a super-soaker water gun.
    • Use dominance posturing and vocalizations on your part to teach the bears to fear you.
  • Get your local government involved in becoming a Bear Smart Community. For more information on this, please contact The BEAR Group.

If you have found other ways of keeping bears off your property, we’d love to hear from you. Please write to us.



On September 27, 2007, APLNJ and the BEAR Group won a major lawsuit when the Appellate Division invalidated the 2005 black bear management policy because they found the state violated the Administrative Procedure Act. Violations included the failure to respond to questions at the public hearing, and failure to publish a report summarizing and responding to public comments.

This legal victory shows how the Fish and Game Council (FGC), disregards laws and procedures. Instead of managing wildlife for all of us, the FGC abuses their power to satisfy less than 1% of New Jersey’s population who hunts.

Please see the full decision here.


Animal Protection League of New Jersey