The state's highest court called off New Jersey's bear hunt Thursday, four days before the season is scheduled to start.
TRENTON, N.J. − The state's highest court called off New Jersey's bear hunt Thursday, four days before the season is scheduled to start.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the state needs to establish a proper management program for bears before it can allow the animals to be hunted.
More than 300 black bears were killed in last year's hunt -- the first bear season in 33 years in New Jersey. Proponents maintain another season is needed because of increasing contact between the animals and humans.
The hunt was authorized in July by the state Fish and Game Council, an independent panel that sets New Jersey's hunting seasons. As of Thursday, nearly 4,000 permits had been issued.
But state environmental chief Bradley Campbell has opposed the current bear season, saying the state should be allowed to manage the bear population with a contraception program and public awareness campaigns for residents who live near heavy bear populations.
Bear hunting supporters called it a "sad day in wildlife management."
"You've taken 50 years of very successful wildlife management and turned it upside down, subjected it to the whims of one political appointee," said Game Council Chairman Scott Ellis. "It's obvious that this commissioner is beholden to the whacko animal rights crowd."
The ruling overturned a lower court decision that required Campbell to process bear hunting applications and proceed with plans for this year's season. Campbell had refused to issue the permits, maintaining he had the authority to overrule the game council.
"This is a victory for good government but it's also a victory for the bears," said Jeff Tittel, head of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. "It's the best Christmas gift they could have this year."
Campbell said the next step is for the Fish and Game Council and the state Division of Fish and Wildlife to develop a management policy. The division is an agency within the Department of Environmental Protection that enforces hunting and fishing regulations.
Source: Associated Press