Murphy’s Stunning Reversal


Our Governor ignores the trash program that reduce conflict, then says the non-existent programs “didn’t work.”

New Jersey denies its citizens modern public safety and wildlife co-existence programs used and recommended by the world’s leading authorities and bear towns.


  1. We’ve been here before, but it’s never time to give up! Call Governor Murphy’s office at 609-292-6000.
  2. Tweet @GovMurphy #savenjbears
  3. Email Governor Murphy at
  4. Call the Democratic State Committee at 609-392-3367. Let them know that you are disappointed in their support of the bear hunt, and this changes the Democratic scorecard.
  5. We are in the midst of a lawsuit and will never give up fighting for bears.

Here’s what happened. Welcome to the 1950s.

New Jersey denies its citizens modern public safety and wildlife co-existence programs used and recommended by the world’s leading authorities and bear towns.

“This research will go a long way towards taking the guessing game out of how to better manage black bears and reduce conflict,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher Stewart Breck, who has focused on carnivore ecology and behavior. “The question is whether or not people will listen.”

It’s official: New Jersey has perfected not listening.

APLNJ counseled the Governor’s staff numerous times, in meetings and in writing, that it must initiate a trash mitigation program before banning the baited hunt.

Sent: Thursday, April 1, 2021 10:09 AM
To: Garg, Parimal ; Hans, Elspeth; Cohen, Jane Cohen
Subject: [EXTERNAL] Yesterday’s Meeting

. . .I’d wanted to reiterate a caveat we’ve raised in the past: when ending a bear hunt, the State must have the benefit of applied trash/attractant mitigation programs already in place, at least in hot spots (areas that experience a greater number of complaints). Hunters have been feeding the bears for years, beginning in late summer (sometimes all year long, as Jeff explained).   Bears conditioned to such large amounts of supplemental, human-derived foods will look elsewhere, possibly garbage. The reduction of garbage complaints during the baiting months seems to demonstrate this.

As Angi explained, APLNJ is based in bear country, has been working on the ground with Bear Smart programs for decades . . . When living out West, the undersigned was in touch with Yosemite, Boulder, Aspen, and other localities enforcing Bear Smart programs. We would be glad to work with the Administration in getting something in place prior to the fall. We also want to suggest that, like New York, the DEP require use of bear-resistant canisters for hikers in state parks.

We are fortunate to have these remarkable, shy animals in our midst. Thank you for graciously responding to these important public concerns about how we treat them. It is past time for New Jersey to encourage and adopt humane co-existence programs used in Alaska, Colorado, Montana, and elsewhere.

Best regards,

Susan Russell
Wildlife Policy Director
Animal Protection League of New Jersey

We were hopeful, and we were bamboozled. We invited the country’s leading bear program authority to a subsequent meeting set up by the Governor’s staff with DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, who gave the expert all of, maybe, a minute. It was embarrassing.

We then provided the commissioner with a comprehensive non-lethal black bear management plan with emphasis on trash management and other programs that work elsewhere.

From that point on, for a year, the DEP stonewalled enquiries regarding the progress of the plan, which never materialized. [1] During much of this time, the Governor’s office and DEP secretly committed staff, time and resources to the “emergency” hunt, rationale, and rule.

In other words, while stonewalling the only urban wildlife programs known to reduce bear-human conflict, the Administration focused on renewing the hunt to reduce bear-human conflict caused by its own neglect or design. Murphy’s staff forwarded trash management materials to DEP – all ended up on the desks of, yes, Division of Fish and Wildlife game managers whose chief mission is to conduct trophy hunts for clients. And there they stayed.

Word has it that Phil Murphy has national aspirations. That could well be why, some believe, he is trying to please hunters in states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Just in case, the nation’s largest national animal protection and hiking groups are alerting their members.

Otherwise, there is no rational explanation for what just took place.

You’ve got to be kidding

Murphy’s claim to have tried non-lethal is disingenuous. He cites a dire threat to public safety, having “tried” non-lethal methods that “didn’t work.” That’s demonstrably false and the Governor and his staff know it.

We’re all concerned about public safety. That’s the point. Our wildlife mitigation team understands that conflicts, and even fear, exist but can be constructively addressed, especially with such a large, if shy, animal.

Fear is understandable and safety is paramount, and all the more reason for politics to take a back seat. Trash management is not the product of humane interests. It is designed and recommended by biologists charged with keeping people and bears apart and safe.

The irony, or tragedy, given the Governor’s justification of “public safety,” is that the scientific consensus is unequivocal: the most effective means of protecting humans and bears is managing trash. That’s why Western counties and cities manage trash. [2] They require, not ask, homeowners to use grizzly-bear tested trash bins. These bins bring run-ins substantially down. It’s that simple.

Inexcusably, neither the Governor nor his DEP commissioner nor his assistant DEP commissioner evinced the slightest interest in installing trash management programs that work elsewhere. Assistant DEP Commissioner Bukowski – a hunting guide, no less – point blank refused to enforce bear-related trash laws. We relayed these developments to the Governor’s office, but nothing changed. Remember, the Governor now says he “tried non-lethal and it didn’t work.” That’s crafty, and that’s bad faith. Another word for it is dishonest.

Hunting black bears to reduce conflict is, emphatically, not “grounded in science”

Findings presented at the 2012 Fourth International Human-Bear Conflicts Workshop, held in Missoula, Montana sharply contradict New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s contentions that “only hunting” reduces conflict (The Missoulian, Studies: Hunting won’t stop nuisance bears, Mar 24, 2012, see full article here:

  • Extensive studies in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ontario found that more liberal bear hunting seasons could get more bears killed but couldn’t weed out nuisance bears selectively.
  • Hunting had almost no effect on the number of bear complaints homeowners phoned to game wardens.
  • Many of the 300 bear experts at the Fourth International Human-Bear Conflicts Workshop in Missoula this week agreed that using phone calls to gauge bear trouble was a “lousy measuring stick.”
  • Outgunned, New Jersey’s hunting agency arranged for a study of its own – with “Bear Trust International,” an outfit whose members include Safari Club International, Remington Arms, [3] SigArms Corporation, and Taurus International Firearms. Collaborators were Hudson Farm Foundation, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (Patrick Carr), and Utah State University. To no one’s surprise, the industry supported study pronounced that New Jersey bear hunts reduced conflict. [4] Apparently, they got away with it.

The Murphy Administration simply threw money – and our trash management information – at the Division of Fish and Wildlife, an agency credibly accused of fudging complaint and call-in data to obtain a bear hunt [5] and, by its own then-DEP Commissioner, of lying about trash compliance. [6] (See, TIME and NBC News, respectively). NBC and the former commissioner noted that the Division’s unheard-of claim of “90 percent compliance” didn’t hold up; both reported open trash cans and dumpsters in full view on opening day of the hunt. As is its wont since Christine Todd Whitman’s tenure, DFW staff spent the “non-lethal” money on everything but the one method that works: trash management. We’d warned the governor’s office, just as we warned that hunters would call in bear nuisance and sighting complaints to build the case for resuming the hunt.

We provided reams of information and links to extant trash programs, Colorado wildlife agency five-year studies, Yosemite’s findings, to no avail. We brought in national experts and officials from cities requiring grizzly-tested, bear resistant bins. Boulder uses them. Aspen uses them. Teton County Wyoming uses them. Juneau Alaska uses them. Montana uses them. But not New Jersey, the state with the most sensationalized bear coverage.

Trash management was a chimera

What appears to have happened is this: There was never any intention of initiating trash management programs or pushing through legislation, and certainly not to replace hunting.

Murphy had promised to ban the bear hunt to get votes. Pro-bear organizations campaigned for him, canvassed for him, convinced people who didn’t want to vote for him to do it for the bears.

Once elected, things changed, as early as the transition period. From the outset, pro-bear hunt, former DEP bureaucrats and other pro-hunt forces on Murphy’s transition team muddied the waters. Phil Murphy waffled, and later fully caved, seemingly captive to the small hunters’ agency within the DEP. (Governors Whitman and Corzine were made of sterner stuff. Both withstood the same PR/DFW barrage and claims of rising complaints and yet they nixed bear hunts. Under pressure, Jim McGreevy permitted one bear hunt, “felt awful,” cancelled the next, and stood firm.) Murphy, on the other hand, allowed the bear hunt for three full years, using the seven-year “comprehensive” black bear plan as an excuse. He cut a deal to ban hunting on state lands, where far less hunting occurred. During that time, he took heat as a politician who didn’t honor an important election promise.

When the seven-year plan expired, he lost his excuse. He had to ban the hunt, but did so only for one year. What’s so telling, in retrospect, is how quiet hunters have been, and how long, in the measly year when black bears had a reprieve, the governor’s office had been secretly working to resume the hunt without telling us, even as they met with APLNJ, Sierra Club, national organizations and a state senator, even as all pressed for implementation of trash programs. The Governor met personally with pro-hunt advocates, something he never did for pro-bear residents. All this, with no opportunity to respond.

In any event, Murphy’s party, within the state, must be pressed to reverse this travesty.

Please click here to send your letter to your legislators. If you choose, add a few words of your own.


Sue Russell

[1] For five months we’d been trying to arrange a meeting between a Western city’s urban wildlife director and the Governor’s staff. We finally got the meeting on 6 October. Unbeknownst to us, Murphy’s office was wrapping up the “emergency” hunt package. It is now apparent that the only reason for the sudden interest was to use the information, pick our brains, so that they could include yet another “pilot” trash program run by the hostile Division of Fish and Wildlife as a sop to bear enthusiasts and for political cover. Trash programs do not require “pilots” – they work. The hunters’ agency has already run a “pilot” program – it didn’t go anywhere. At no time during the meeting did the Governor’s staff tell us that they were experiencing problems with bears, let alone that a hunt was imminent.

[2] Teton County, Wyoming; Teton County, Idaho; Eagle County, Colorado, Aspen, Colorado; and Juneau, Alaska mandate bear resistant bins and dumpsters. Aspen officials advise that the ordinances are in place “to ensure your safety and the safety of our wildlife. When wildlife has access to trash, it brings them closer to our homes, creating a potentially dangerous situation for animals and people.”

Boulder, Colorado’s bear safe ordinance requires all trash and curbside compost to be secured from bears at all times until collected by a waste hauler in the western part of the city. View downloadable map of the area where bear-resistant containers are mandatory.

[3] According to Source Watch:

Bear Trust International (BTI) is a Missoula, Montana-based organization that claims to work to “to conserve all 8 species of the world’s bears, other wildlife, and habitat” and to “reinforce ecosystem viability through habitat conservation and education projects that build on timely research.”

BTI has lobbied against bear and wolf protection legislation alongside a number of gun lobby and sport-hunting advocacy organizations including the Boone & Crockett Club, Safari Club International, and the National Rifle Association. As of 2014, BTI was listed as a member of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners, “a consortium of 49 organizations that represents the interests of America’s 20 million hunters, their families and the economies of many rural communities,” alongside many of these same advocacy groups. BTI was a 2016 sponsor of the Boone & Crockett Club’s 29th Big Game Awards, held July 14-16, 2016 in Springfield, Missouri.

Bear Trust International partners are: Dallas Safari Club, Safari Club International, Wildlife Management Institute, the trade association that represents Remington Arms, Inc., Browning Arms, Inc.; Alliant Powder; Olin Corporation; Hodgedon Powder Com.; Blount, Inc.; Marlin Firearms Company; H&R 1871 Inc.; Sturm, Ruger & Co.; O.F. Mossberg &Sons, Inc.; SigArms Corporation; Taurus International Firearms; Weatherby, Inc.; and Smith & Wesson, ATK Armament, and others.


[5] New Jersey Bear Hunt: Number Fraud? |