Emotion and Politics, Not Science, Fuels Garden State Ban on Bear Hunting

New Jersey Gov. Philip Murphy has used his executive order powers to ban bear hunting on any state-controlled public land.
Emotion and Politics, Not Science, Fuels Garden State Ban on Bear Hunting

Politicians often play on emotion and promises when it comes to wildlife decisions, instead of biology and science, and it's happened again in New Jersey.

Duh, are you surprised? Probably not.

Garden State Gov. Philip Murphy used his executive order powers to ban bear hunting on any state-controlled public land. That's within his right as governor, of course, thanks to that executive order deal. Governors and the president have this authority; some use it in good ways and some are dumber than a bag of hammers with it.

Murphy's decision also limits him to public lands, though, which is good because private landowers should be able to decide what they want or need to do on their property. Thankfully, because the New Jersey Fish and Game Council sets regulations for private and public lands, and bear hunting is authorized through 2021, private landowners and hunters will still be able to pursue bruins.

At issue, though, is Gov. Murphy's silly, emotion-fueled ban on bear hunting on public land. New Jersey isn't bereft of black bears; plenty of them reside there and in the Northeast. Incidents with humans are regular occurences but that doesn't mean black bears are just part of daily life and should be treated like Joe Schmoe living down the street.

Public lands are also the only place some people have for hunting. People who plan all year to do what they love now may be left hanging. Why? To appease voters.

When the biology and science of true conservation game management — which includes hunting — gets tossed in the trash and ignored for nothing more than politics, it's truly sad. Not unusual, though. It happens on both sides of the aisle.

“This is pure political pandering at its finest. Gov. Murphy knows the wildlife experts in his own agencies use the best available science and practices when evaluating wildlife populations and setting hunting regulations,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “This backdoor attempt to undermine scientific wildlife management is a slap in the face to those biologists, presents a clear and present danger to New Jersey’s citizens and, ultimately, hurts the entire population of bears.”

Also from Sportsmen's Alliance: Dense is the best way to describe New Jersey. It is the most densely populated state in the country with approximately 9 million citizens, and is estimated to have the densest population of black bears with surveys topping 3,500 bears in just the northern portion of the state.

It truly is astounding that any politician wouldn't have the brains to use his agency's trained biologists or the personal testicular fortitude to stand up to the misguided, preservation-driven voters yelping about things they don't know. But it happens. It happened in Florida in 2016 and 2017 with that state's bear hunting controversy, and it's happened again in New Jersey.

Education, Contraception: Failure

Columnist Jim Stabile nails valid points in this breakdown of the New Jersey fiasco, which has gone on for decades thanks to inept pols playing to voters' emotions instead of using sound biology and management.

— Education helps people understand more about bears, but does literally nothing to decrease a growing population of them. Nothing. Wild bears will continue to breed and increase their population and expand into new areas. Being "educated" about them won't stop that.

— Contraception is a fantasy, has been proven repeatedly to be unsuccessful, and is waste of taxpayer money. Projects of this kind cost hundreds of thousands of dollars; already on Staten Island with its deer problem, New York has exceeded its three-year budget and is pushing $1 million. Voters across America plead for politicians and "the government" to use taxes wisely instead of for fanciful feel-good projects. The idea of using contraception with wildlife on a large scale, such as the bear population in New Jersey, is simply idiotic.

— Federal excise tax money, which is returned to states through the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid to Wildlife Act, could be at risk for New Jersey. Stabile reports that a prior attempt to ban bear seasons, back in 2004, threatened the state's P-R funds from the federal government. Now they could be at risk again, meaning tax money paid for by hunters — not non-hunters, not anti-hunters, but only hunters — might not be returned to the state for various restoration projects including those for many non-game species.

What's the Solution?

If you have too many of anything that is a nuisance or problem, the most obvious and best way to solve the problem is to get rid of enough of them so the problem is managed or goes away.

That means figuring out the best and most effective methods. Not just one, but many of them being used together. Valid, sound and sensible wildlife conseravation management includes hunting seasons, and not preservation, more education, "learning to live with them" and outright pandering to voters' emotions.

Here's another thing I've never understood: on the political spectrum, Democrats and those leaning left typically support the use of sound biology and science for wildlife. They preach that hither and yon, that it's critical to have all the facts, to use the best science, to gather data and use the best means possible to achieve the best outcomes.

And yet these hypocrites in New Jersey, including its pandering governor, ignore an obvious problem to yelp for more education and hunting bans. The same happened in Florida. It has happened in California and other states with bans on trapping, use of hunting hounds and other feel-good, voter-happy prohibitions.

It's not management, it's not sound science and it's not conservation.

The most effective management tools for population control are hunting and trapping. Period. Banning hunting and trapping seasons only exacerbates the problem. Kicking the can down the road to the next set of politicians or generation of voters is nothing new, though. New Jersey's governor seems to have figured that out already.


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