Bear Hunt, Bad Faith

Governor Christie has earned national headlines for taking on entrenched bureaucracies, which place their own interests before the public’s. The Governor, however, has intentionally failed to turn his sights on an interest that he has favored: the Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) and its hunter clients. It is no secret that this small agency is captive to the interests it is supposed to regulate. It functions as a private hunting club.

DFW is partnered with not only recreational hunters, but also with the trade associations for the ammunition, gun, archery, and fur industries.

DFW is staffed and run by recreational hunters. The agency is actively engaged in creating new, paying clients by recruiting women and children, and providing crossbow hunter access 150 feet from residents’ homes. The vast, vast majority–99%–of New Jerseyans do not hunt.

Before he was elected, Chris Christie promised a bear hunt to a recently-formed Political Action Committee (representing the above wildlife use industries),if he were elected. As Governor-elect, Christie appointed the head of this PAC, a self-advertised trophy hunter, to his DEP-wildlife transition team.

Shortly after the 2000 bear hunt was canceled by then Governor Whitman, Patrick Carr, (project leader for the Division’s bear program), was interviewed in the February 2001 issue of “Field and Stream” magazine. ?[Carr] expects the postponement to give agency biologists time to shore up the research they used to justify their original proposal for a hunting season. Part of the $2 million appropriation from the state’s legislature is earmarked for bear research, and Carr believes that it will allow him and his colleagues to make an even better case for bear hunting.?

From 2006-2009, $1.9 million in taxpayer funds were given to DFW for nonlethal black bear management. $625,000 of this money went to the Bureau of Law Enforcement (part of DFW) to add additional staff to enforce the Bear Feeding Ban Law (NJSA 23:2A-14). During those years, the bureau wrote 21,463 in total summonses, only 9 of which were on the feeding ban law. That’s $625,000 for nine bear feeding summons.

DFW infractions include long-term violations of the Open Public Meetings Act, failure for the last 11 years to file mandatory annual accountability reports (NJSA 23:2-2), and continued fudging of the content in its current black bear management policy.

In 2005, the New Jersey?s Supreme Court decreed DFW?s data and plan not credible, citing ?rather stark inaccuracies in its statistical data?.

Nothing?s changed; the nonlethal program and enforcement were given token treatment, and then ditched. The DFW took the money and ran toward a hunt. Yet Governor Christie?s DEP commissioner will not intervene, though the above referenced 2005 NJ Supreme Court decision stated that the ?[DEP]Commissioner is empowered to intervene? in actions of the Fish & Game Council.

At the beginning of a recent meeting with many environmental and wildlife protection organizations opposed to the trophy hunt, the DEP Commissioner told them that his mind was made up: the hunt would take place.

Using DFW data, Dr.Ed Tavss, of Rutgers University, concluded that the DFW employed a hodgepodge of methodology with the effect of inflating bear nuisance complaints and using this as their foundation for a hunt. Dr. Tavss demonstrated complaints substantially decreased (contrary to DFW?s widely disseminated claim that complaints have increased).

Dr. Tavss’ previous study demonstrated that in every site studied, hunting failed to decrease complaints, while in these same sites, nonlethal methods worked in reducing complaints.

We share Dr. Tavss’s opinion: there should be no bear hunt and that nonlethal methods should be implemented.

We call on Governor Christie to extend the cleaning up of government to the DFW, which has acted to the detriment of wildlife and New Jersey residents, with impunity, for decades.

Governor, let the facts and your laudable good government agenda intervene.

Please call Governor Christie at 609-292-6000,  daily, and demand that he act in accord with facts and the will of the majority of the public and call off this trophy hunt.

Angi Metler isExecutive Director, Animal Protection League of New Jersey and Co-Director, Bear Education and Resource Group

Bear Hunt, Bad Faith