Gov. announces proposed changes to Game Code to end bear hunt in 2021

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Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that the New Jersey Fish and Game Council has proposed changes to the state’s Game Code that would end bear hunting in New Jersey after 2020.

The Fish and Game Council, which has authority over the hunt, has proposed an amendment to the New Jersey Game Code that suspends the hunt and removes the current Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy from the Game Code, according to a press release from Murphy’s office.

These changes enable the council and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to engage in a review of the current scientific data to develop a new policy that promotes public safety and welfare while protecting New Jersey’s wildlife, with a focus on non-lethal bear management techniques, according to the press release.

“With today’s announcement, we will end the bear hunt under my administration and develop a new black bear policy that keeps public safety at the forefront of our concerns while protecting wildlife in the state,” Murphy was quoted as saying in the press release.

“I am grateful to the Fish and Game Council for their commitment to working with the DEP to address this issue and chart a better way forward,” he said.

“New Jersey’s bear hunt has had the reputation of being one of the cruelest bear hunts in the country,” said state Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth). “I am very thankful to Gov. Murphy for making 2020’s bear hunt the last one ever in New Jersey. This inhumane practice has gone on far too long and it is time to eliminate it in its entirety on public and private lands.”

The rules proposed in the New Jersey Register are subject to a 60-day comment period. Pending the public comment process, the current Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy will be removed from the Game Code, which means no bear hunt may proceed unless and until a new policy is adopted, according to the press release.

Bear hunting will not proceed after the 2020 season under the Murphy administration, according to the press release.

In August 2018, Murphy signed an Executive Order directing the DEP to close all public lands under the department’s jurisdiction to bear hunting for the 2018 season. That order prohibited bear hunting in all state forests, state parks, state recreation areas, state historic sites, state wildlife management areas and state natural areas, according to the press release.