History of NJ Black Bears

1954 – 2017: An Historical Perspective of Black Bears in New Jersey

In 1954, New Jersey’s black bears were classified as a game species.

The first of 13 regulated hunts began in 1958 when the population estimate was 56-71. In 1971, the hunting season was closed because the population declined to less than 25 due to regulated hunting. In 1981, an effort by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to introduce 50 bears from Pennsylvania into the Pinelands and swamps in 1980-81 failed due to protests from farmers.

In 1982, the DFW started monitoring the black bear population more carefully to eventually reopen the season. In 1988, when the DFW estimated the bear population to be around 150, plans were announced to open a new season. This plan met with severe opposition and the first Black Bear Protection Bill was introduced in the New Jersey Legislature, a bill that would statutorily protect black bears. The DFW halted their plans to reopen a black bear season, but remained committed to this pursuit.

In March 2000, the DFW formally announced a black bear hunting plan in the proposed game code. Within 3 days of this announcement, the legislature re-introduced the dormant Black Bear Protection Bill. During the next 6 months, over 1,000,000 New Jersey residents urged the Governor to suspend the hunt. At the 11th hour, the Governor asked the Fish and Game Council to vote to suspend the hunt, and the Council complied.

In 2003, black bears were added into the Game Code as a game species (after having not been hunted for over 30 years) and a hunt ensued that year. A hunt was halted in 2004 by the action of the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.


  • do nothing to protect public safety
  • do nothing to prevent incidences and complaints
  • are recreational trophy hunts
  • New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, New Jersey Fish and Game Council, and bear hunters should be held liable for any incidences involving black bears because they have failed to support and implement Bear Smart initiatives.


  • Public Education – people need to know how to behave responsibly in bear habitat
  • Garbage Containment
  • Attractant Control

For more information about solutions, please visit BearSmartNJ.org.