Bear-resistant container bill clears committee

TRENTON – A bill that would help prohibit feeding of black bears cleared the Senate Economic Growth Committee Thursday.

S2369 would build off 2010 recommendations of the Fish and Game Council to minimize interaction between humans and bears.

A 2002 law already bars deliberate acts to feed or attract bears. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Ray Lesniak, (D-20), Elizabeth, and others, would require the use of bear-resistant containers or trash bins.

The proposal would also eliminate an exception in the law for placement of bait for deer in towns that are in black bear habitat.

In addition, this bill would require public and private campgrounds and state camping facilities in bear habitat to provide bear-resistant Dumpsters and food boxes.

There was widespread support from organizations such as the League of Humane Voters, Animal Protection League of N.J. and Humane Society of N.J.

The key issue witnesses addressed was the portion of the bill that would ban baiting, since bears are attracted to deer bait sites.

Drawing a distinction between true sportsmen and baiters, Lesniak said that “Baiting is nothing more than target shooting.’’

And Angi Melter of the Animal Protection League said that “the dirty little secret is that people like to see the bears.’’

There were concerns.

The N.J. Farm Bureau raised a concern over whether the bill would hamper agricultural businesses, in particular production of sunslower seeds, which bird-feeders use.

Lesniak said that probably could be addressed with wording regarding intent of the users.

And Sen. Steve Oroho raised a question to a container manufacturer about whether they are completely bear-proof, to which Steve Thompson of the company Bear Saver admitted that they use the term “bear-resistant’’ because they are not guaranteed fool-proof against people who don’t use them properly.

The bill passed 3-2 along party lines.

Bear-resistant container bill clears committee