New Jersey Bear Complaints Up 44%, Bear Hunting Magazine

With complaints about New Jersey's troublesome bears up 44 percent over last year, legislators from the heart of bruin country issued a letter to state environmental officials demanding the release of population estimates they suggested are being suppressed.

"It used to be information that was given out, and now you don't see it," said state Sen. Steve Oroho, who joined Assembly members Alison Littell McHose and Gary Chiusano in a letter demanding the state release its "best estimates" of the bear population.

"I hope this is not a case of their thinking that, if the information doesn't exist people will think the problem doesn't exist, because we live here and we see the problem everyday -- more and more bears," he added.

But the Department of Environmental Protection contends it does not have a state-wide estimate of black bears, only calculations biologists have developed on bears roaming a study region of 580-square miles.

The DEP also contends that the most recent data and projections of bear population growth in that study area was contained in the DEP's 2007 Comprehensive Black Bear Management Report, which contained projections initially released in 2005 indicating 3,056 bears-more than five bruins per-square-mile-will roam the study area by 2010.

Bear incident reports, including home break-ins, also are released at the state Fish and Game Council's monthly meetings, said Lawrence Herrighty, assistant director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Complaints include bears approaching children at a picnic, breaking into enclosed garages and greenhouses, and disturbing a sleeping sunbather. Yet the fiscal 2009 budget reduced the appropriation for bear management from $850, 000 last year to $678, 000.

Bears represent a significant public safety threat to children, tourists and family pets,  Chiusano said. The so-called comprehensive approach to bear management does not seem to be working. We need to consider a new plan."

If the Commissioner does not release the information requested in a timely fashion, all three legislators are prepared to petition for the release of the information through New Jerseys Open Public Records Act.

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