It’s one thing to have an agenda. It’s admirable in some respect to have ideals and are willing to stand in support of those. It’s despicable to lie in order to convince others to side with you. New Jersey bear and human encounters are on the rise. They have been for several years now and many media sources within the state are reporting such.

At issue in the Garden State is whether non-lethal (interpreted as a ban on bear hunting) methods is all that is necessary to properly manage bears. Even though the facts reveal that when bear hunts are being implemented, bear and human encounters decline, those opposed to hunting claim that education programs geared at teaching the public how to live with bears is all that is necessary.

New Jersey’s bear management has a storied and controversial history and continues to this day. Bear hunts were held in 2003 and 2005 and were quite successful. These were followed by years of reduced human/bear conflicts. A hunt schedule for 2006 was canceled shortly after Jon Corzine was elected the state’s governor and he appointed Lisa Jackson, now Barack Obama’s environmental czar, to head up the state’s department of environmental protection. Since then, a court-approved bear management plan was tossed in the garbage and the Corzine administration insists that bears can be be managed without a hunt while at the same time turning a blind eye to the facts. Public safety may be at risk while the Governor continues to claim there is no bear problem.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with educating the public in how to safely deal with and live with bears, allowing the population to grow unchecked is irresponsible. What’s also irresponsible is for media to spread information about bears that simply isn’t true.

On June 24, 2009, the Daily Record published an article that stated that the number of bears being euthanized has declined of late.

Only six bears have been euthanized this year. That compares to nearly 30 that were put down in 2008 and 18 in 2007, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Let’s say this information is certainly misleading if not an outright lie. The comparison being used is disingenuous. There have been 6 bears killed this year for being “category one” problem bears. That number is from the beginning of the year up through May, 2009. The 30-bear comparison is for all of 2008.

On June 27, 2009, in the Atlantic City Press, David Burke, a member of the New Jersey Fish and Game Council, denied the claims that human and bear encounters were on the decline.

The claim that there has been a decline in the most dangerous types of bear incidents attributable to the state’s non-lethal bear-management program is not supported by fact. Bear incident reports compiled by the Department of Environmental Protection through May 20 of this year indicate that the most serious complaints (Category I) actually increased by 14.5 percent compared with the same period last year.

The author also mentioned that only six bears have been euthanized for threatening or dangerous behavior this year compared with 30 last year. This is not a valid comparison. The actual number of bears euthanized through May of this year was the same as last year.

It is quite unfortunate, to say the least, that bad information gets placed in media locations that the public can read. In this case, people who read such inaccurate information can actually be put at increased risk of safety thinking bears are no longer a problem. This runs counter to the efforts of those who believe that educating the public is the answer. If that is their belief, then why is it necessary to mislead the people by distorting the facts?

The truth is, probably the non-lethal methods crammed down the throats of New Jersey’s residents of bear country have helped but it has nothing to do with controlling bear populations. The number of bears in New Jersey are said to be at record levels and while teaching people how to reduce bear conflicts is commendable, it does nothing to address the real problem.

At some point in time, people will begin to ask who is going to be responsible for a bear/human conflict that might result in serious injury or death? The governor? The DEP? The Fish and Game Council? The Daily Record?

Tom Remington