New Jersey Governor Ends Bear Hunting on State Lands


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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45 Responses

  1. Avatar Kolohe says:

    “State officials have estimated around 3,500 bears live in northern New Jersey, and… that New Jersey has the densest bear populations on the continent.”

    Bears repeating.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw says:

      Meanwhile, there are an estimated 500-650 black bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem, which is somewhere in the area of 75,000 to 80,000 sq. kilometers, roughly the land area of Maine or four times the size of New Jersey.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        Good point. As I noted in the OP, this was clearly not a decision based in science.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          Though it may not be that straightforward. Yellowstone is a significantly different ecosystem than (i.e) the Delaware Gap area and very well could have a much lower carrying capacity per acre due to differences in rainfall, altitude, and prevalent plants (and other critters bears may eat). Plus, black bears aren’t the only bears in Yellowstone.

          (just went on trip to Alaska this summer, and someone there said that’s there’s significant differences in bear population and especially average full grown size due to whether or not the place has easy access to salmon runs.)Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Well, yeah, when you have all the unsecured garbage of all of New Jersey as a buffet table, you can support a hell of a population!Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw says:

            I thought about mentioning there are estimated to be nearly as many grizzly bears, as well, because it might be relevant. But then I thought about bison and other large mammals?

            Really the point was that when they are talking about the densest bear populations on the continent, it is striking that New Jersey, being about 95% urban has more black bears than one of the largest temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Bears repeating.

      At an unbearable rate.Report

  2. Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

    There are bears in New Jersey? Who knew?

    “We still need Governor Murphy to keep his commitment to ban the bear hunt completely.”

    Why is it Americans seem so enamored of autocratic authority when it suits their goals?Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      Activists are motivated by policy goals, and generally view procedural obstacles as exactly that.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I think there’s also the belief among enviro types that animals shouldn’t be murdered culled merely to serve the interests of humans who’ve gobbled up their habitat. Sport hunting exists in a weird moral zone to me. I also think it’s strange that a pragmatically based wildlife-management decision to cull a herd is viewed by hunters rights groups as pro-hunting.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          Wildlife management professionals have a lot of tools at their disposal for addressing population control. I would say that they are ‘strongly encouraged’ to leverage sport hunting whenever possible as a sort of win-win.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Oh I totally get that. Practically speaking, if the management folks say the herd needs to culled AND there’s a community of folks who’ll pay money to do it, it’s a win-win from the state’s pov. None of those considerations will affect how some enviros think about wildlife habitat and sport hunting tho.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              Absolutely agree on that. I will also note that there’s a growing voice in the hunting community of people who want to be honest that we like seeing over-population because it justifies what we do.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                An old friend from my grad school days was a) and avid bow hunter and b) intensely studied animal rights arguments and was persuaded of their soundness. “How do you reconcile the one with the other?” I cleverly asked him (I was in grad school, being clever is like 80% of the game). To his credit he said that he couldn’t, other than that he just enjoyed it. He even internally ran a utilitarian calculus on his perceived pleasure against the animals pain and harm, and it spit out a loud “no, just stop it”.

                He liked it. End of story. Tho I’m not sure he wasn’t still a bit unsettled that he couldn’t reason his way to a better answer.Report

              • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

                To his credit he said that he couldn’t, other than that he just enjoyed it.

                In the 21st century, there really is no other way to explain it. Food is readily available at the grocery.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Been thinking about this for a bit…

                In my own case, I used to hunt big mammals, small mammals, birds, and fish. The big mammals were always the hardest to reconcile with my emotional baseline. I always felt bad, never any exhilaration. The next to go were small mammals and birds, probably because of increased lack of similarity to me. Next was the fishes. I think at one point I didn’t think killing fish – or even wantonly fucking with fish for my amusement – was problematic. I dunno, I can’t recall. I liked *catching* fishing that much.

                As I got older, tho, and after I stopped hunting big and small mammals and birds but still fished, I began reading about animal rights, the most profound being Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation. At that point I began a sort of personal journey, one which lots of other people have traversed but was personal for me, into animal rights literature and the surrounding issues more generally. The topics had to do with factory farming, of course, but also how the mental lives of animals aren’t that different from out own and even moreso that living beings deserves moral consideration full stop. That stuck. Don’t fuck with animals unless you need to.

                Well, to cut to the chase of all this, I’m sorta like the guy I mentioned upthread: I love eating meat. I stopped hunting because I didn’t like wanton the violence involved, and I stopped catch-and-release fishing because it just seemed like abusing a living being for my amusement. I tried being a vegetarian when I was younger (when I had a super-high metabolism rate and was super-active) and it didn’t work.

                So … I eat meat. Quite often I love eating meat. Not regularly, but does it matter? And that’s the end of it. (sigh) Maybe I’ll get there before I’m dust.Report

              • Avatar Phaedros says:

                I quit eating pork almost a year ago, because I believe pigs are too intelligent of animals.

                I do enjoy fishing, and those fish I catch, I kill and eat.
                I also hunt birds; dove and quail.
                I don’t hunt birds I would feed at the park; i.e., duck and geese.

                That said, I accept that others’ morals and ethics may be somewhat different than my own.
                And that said, there is a point where the acceptance abruptly ends; e.g., eating an animal while still alive, et al.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          Bear hunting isn’t sport hunting, per se. I know a lot of bear hunters who love the meat. They don’t just mount the head or use the pelt as a rug.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            For me the term “sport hunting” refers to any hunting that isn’t subsistence-based.

            Yeah, that’s right. I’m one of *those people*.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              Ah, yeah, I define sport hunting as going for the kill, and the meat is a secondary concern.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And (or is it but? …) that’s what’s so creepy about sport hunting.

                {pretends to quickly duck out of the conversation}Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                For me as long as they don’t waste the meat, I don’t care why they kill, if they’re safe about it. I just really don’t like it when people waste meat (in a full-body sense, I’m not worrying over two bites on someone’s plate – scrupulosity is also a problem). Seems disrespectful to the animal. (Yes, I realize this puts it in the realm of spiritual rather than rational opinions. I’m ok with that in life and death contexts.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think it’s the very (exceedingly) rare hunter who leaves the carcass to decompose, tho it does happen.

                On a river trip a few years ago we found the desiccated body of a deer (with a great rack!) near the shoreline. My guess is that it crossed the river, preventing the hunters from gathering. Bad luck for the hunters. Worse luck for the deer.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                In the last 100 years hunting culture has evolved greatly. I think in nearly all cases, when you find a shot animal in the field, that hunter probably spent a lot of time looking for it. I lose birds occasionally. It sucks. I have never lost a deer but I have had two that I whiffed on in my 30 years of hunting them and in both cases even though I was 99% sure it was a clean miss, I spent HOURS searching just in case. I know guys that have spent days looking for deer that they knew they shot, not because they thought they could recover the meat but just because they wanted to know what happened, for closure and so they could maybe prevent it from happening again.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                @oscar-gordon @stillwater

                I agree with Stillwater’s definition. In my experience, while there may be a lot of bad hunters, I think very, very few kill just for trophies and/or fun and leave meat in the field. So basically, it’s nearly all ‘sport hunting’ since almost none of us need the meat. We might want it, but that’s a different thing.Report

          • Avatar Phaedros says:

            I could never get past the smell of bear meat.
            Smells like wet dog.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      There is a viral story on Facebook about a suburban family that took pictures and videos of bears having a party in their back yard.

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    I’m not opposed to hunting. But i’ve heard a lot of these kind of arguments up here. There isn’t actually a “scientific” answer to how many of any animal should be hunted. How many bears or deer or wolves are value judgments based on what we want our lands to be. Some enviro’s want no hunting at all. Some hunters want heavy wolf kills to jack up moose and caribou numbers to make their hunts eaisier and more plentiful. Neither is right or wrong outside their own preferences.

    Some enviro’s are more attached to powerful charismatic megafauna they can feel a kinship to. Bears fit that role. ( Insert Grizzly Man reference here)

    We’ve had a lot of these arguments up here about wolf kills by helo and bear kills. The direct reason for heavy culling is always a desire to hunt more of other things. The hunters always present it as “scientific”. That means nothing more than killing predators lives more for humans to kill.

    Having more bear means more people need to keep their homes and pets in a bear appropriate manner. That will be a challenge. But in Jersey culling deer is likely the more important issue given how many there are.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      The direct reason for heavy culling is always a desire to hunt more of other things. The hunters always present it as “scientific”. That means nothing more than killing predators lives more for humans to kill.

      I agree with every word of this. I recently heard a hunter say that say that if he hears any of his peers say they hunt for any reason other than ‘I like to hunt’ he calls bullshit on it. More and more I like that logic.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @mike-dwyer @greginak I do know a few people who want to eat meat but don’t feel it’s acceptable for themselves to eat anything they haven’t directly killed themselves, due to their spiritual beliefs. And those folks, I exempt from that claim. I am sure they’ve thought it through and I believe them.

        But they are exceptions, not the rule, for sure.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        Do bears go after deer?

        Because if they do, this New Jersey resident doesn’t want to see hunters harm a hair on their extremely hirsute bodies. The last damn thing we need is more deer.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        Do bears go after deer?

        Because if they do, this New Jersey resident doesn’t want to see hunters harm a hair on their extremely hirsute bodies. The last damn thing we need is more deer.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Agreed. I’ve no problem with liking to hunt and hunting. I don’t have much patience for the ” we need to hunt to keep populations in balance” or ” i hunt to save the animals from dying a horrible death from starvation or the elements.”

        Some of the most caustic things i’ve heard said about hunters came from other hunters. Some of that is in group snobbery ( sheep hunters looking down at moose/caribou hunters) but still a lot of it made sense.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Mike and I have talked about this before, but there’s a type of hunter who really gives hunters a bad name. And if you’re not part of hunting culture (I’m not now but I used to be) it’s easy to view ALL hunters as some variant of the exceedingly bad ones.

          Again, I’m conflicted about sport hunting, but if people are going to do it they should at least do it ethically, with some skill, and with at least some regard for the animal their killing.Report

  4. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I love seeing the black bears back home in WA, but out in the woods. When they come into our neighborhoods, they can hurt our pets and small children (usually out of a fear response), they tear into trash and yards (and cars!) looking for things to eat, and they get hit by cars and killed (and hurt the car occupants, and destroy the car, black bears are still big!).

    If the population is encroaching into suburban or urban areas, the population is too large to support the food available in wild areas, or the bears have just gotten too comfortable around human settlements.Report