Politics is my least favorite part of writing about the environment, but unfortunately it plays a bigger role than I would like in environmental protection. On a national level, President Trump's cabinet appointments for the DEP and Energy have ignited plenty of opinions on both sides.
In our own state, animal-rights groups such as Bear Education and Resource (BEAR) are now lobbying for “Pedal’s Law,” after it was initially rejected by the state Senate. BEAR is a program of Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ).
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Pedals was an injured docile bi-pedal (walking on 2 legs) New Jersey black bear who gained popular attention. Pedals' death touched people in the same way that the 2015 killing of Cecil the lion in Africa by an American hunter sparked an international outcry and greater scrutiny of trophy hunting.
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But on the pro-hunt side, the answer is not considered so simple. In an opinion piece by Mike Adams, he says in talking about about this legislation that "The presumable notion is that after that five years is up, new legislation will move in and ban in New Jersey bear hunting for good."
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I have been a volunteer in the state's Wildlife Conservation Corps since the 1970s. The people I have met as volunteers include hunters, fisherman and environmental activists, so opinions differ on many issues concerning how we should treat species in the state.
I have spent most of my years focused on the Nike Sock Dart Fleece BNIB,. No one argues against protecting bald eagles, but when it comes to game species, like deer and bears, it is more difficult to get consensus.
Those opposed to hunting will argue that hunters and the NJDEP are only interested in game species protection and management in order to provide a population to hunt and to sell permits and licenses. They support non-lethal methods such as artificial sterilization and relocation of transient bears.
Those on the other side will show evidence that these methods are ineffectual and expensive and that only controlled hunting can reduce populations.
In 2016, there were 1,400 accounts of nuisance bears in NJ, which are reported as incidents that include property damage, home entry, livestock kills, and attacks on humans. This number is actually relatively low compared to the earlier years without a bear season. Adams and others point out that in 2004, a year after New Jersey opened its first bear hunt, reports of nuisance encounters dropped by 42 percent.
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These differing opinions on how to deal with bears in NJ are not new, and a report back in 2005 on the "Correlation of reduction in nuisance black bear complaints with implementation of (a) a hunt vs. (b) a non-violent program" showed that the state was considering both hunting and non-violent solutions to nuisance bear problems.
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Bear Smart New Jersey is a public service program of the Bear Education And Resource program intended to protect black bears and their habitat in the state. They reach out to the community to educate residents about bears. They hope to foster a peaceful coexistence with bears and humans.
They have three main methods for their program. First, to have homeowners and businesses contain attractants like garbage and other unnatural food sources that draw bears into places with people. Second, to implement "aversive conditioning", a behavior modification technique used across the country to teach bears that they are not welcome in an area and to reinstill the bears’ natural fear of humans. Of course, the biggest objective, as with almost all environmental protection programs, is to educate the public.
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