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Jersey vs. bears: The gloves come off

DEP chief wants a hunt, and politics be damned

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The black bears of New Jersey have gone too far.

Maybe it was the bear that showed up in Woodbridge, where they hadn't seen one for about a century.

Maybe it was the bear that killed a miniature horse and ate half of it. Or the one that entered a home by opening a kitchen door, shocking the lady of the house as she stepped out of the shower in a towel.

Maybe it was the bear that cornered a 3-year-old last week in Fredon. The boy was rescued only after his mother charged past the bear to grab him.

Whatever did it, the state has finally had enough.

The bear hunt is back. Expect it this fall, and for many falls after that.

At least that's the expectation of Bradley Campbell, head of the Department of Environmental Protection, who will make the decision.

"We need to reduce the population, and that's likely to include a hunt," Campbell says. "All indications are there will be a hunt this fall, and it probably will be an annual feature thereafter."

Sound the alarms. The second great battle over bear hunting in New Jersey is about to begin.

The last time Campbell approved a hunt, for six days in 2003, the animal-rights crowd came after him in a most personal way.

They camped outside his house at night, burning candles. They threatened to disrupt his wedding. One woman was even hauled before a judge after she threatened to hurt Campbell's mother at her nursing home.

Campbell expects the hills to ring with moral indignation once again, but this time he's decided to push back.

"The extremes in this debate are never going to be satisfied," he says.

Campbell doesn't have the specifics worked out yet, and there will be a series of public hearings before any final decision is made.

But with the bear population growing, and the animals getting more bold, it's clear that he wants to let the hunters back in the game.

That can't come soon enough for Roseann Francavilla, who lives in the woods of Fredon with her husband and two children.

She was unloading groceries from her car last week when a bear walked out of the woods and cornered her boy, Sammy.

Francavilla knows the rules. Her garbage is covered, and in a locked shed. She never lets her boy wander off in the woods, and she's told him to scream if he ever sees a bear.

But this time, a bear sneaked up while she was in the kitchen, and the boy was a few steps outside the door, near her SUV.

Suddenly she heard her son scream. When she looked up, she saw him sitting in the driver's seat, where he had fled. The bear was moving toward him, a few feet away, and the door was open.

Francavilla tucked her infant under one arm and charged past the bear to grab Sammy.

"I just wanted to get to him," she said. "I was really scared. And he was screaming and crying. Just terror on his face."

That story had a happy ending. Francavilla backed into the house, the bear following her each step, and locked the door. But she is still shaken by it.

"This bear was 200 pounds," she says. "He could have really mauled my boy."

After the 2003 hunt, Campbell came under tremendous pressure to cancel the hunt for 2004.

Gov. James E. McGreevey didn't want another hunt, especially during what he thought would be the run-up to his re-election campaign. The Legislature was considering bills to ban it. And protesters were promising to gear up for another fight.

Campbell caved under the pressure, according to Scott Ellis, head of the state's Fish and Game Council, which favored the hunts.

"He invited me to the Trenton Marriott for drinks after the hunt was over," Ellis recalls. "And he proceeded to talk about how we are entering an election cycle, and he didn't want outside money coming in from animal-rights groups working against McGreevey's re-election."

Campbell did cancel the 2004 hunt, but he says it was for legitimate reasons. The bear population statistics were unclear, he says. And he wanted to answer critics by showing he was doing everything he could short of hunting, like experimenting with birth control and more-secure garbage containers.

"I was cognizant of having to defend the hunt," he says. "If you want to characterize that as political, that's fine."

This year, though, Campbell is moving back towards the hunt. He knows it will be another big fight. And he knows they'll come after him personally.

But this is a public safety issue to Campbell now. A child was killed a few years ago across the New York border in the Catskills when a black bear cub grabbed the infant from his stroller. And he worries that it could happen here.

If that means he has a big fight on his hand this summer, then so be it.

"It comes with the job," he says.

The boldness of these bears, it seems, has put some steel back in the commissioner's spine.

Tom Moran's column appears Wednesdays and Fridays. He may be reached at [email protected] or (973) 392-1823.
 

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having two young boys myself I no I would never want them to confront a bear with out a gun. could you imagein how scared that women was.If they do go threw with this hunt I would love to do it .I would just have to hook up with one of you guys that live up north..[up]
 

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I cannot believe Ellis said this...holy balls!

Campbell caved under the pressure, according to Scott Ellis, head of the state's Fish and Game Council, which favored the hunts.

"He invited me to the Trenton Marriott for drinks after the hunt was over," Ellis recalls. "And he proceeded to talk about how we are entering an election cycle, and he didn't want outside money coming in from animal-rights groups working against McGreevey's re-election."
 

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Ellis is a good man. Unfortunately we lose him in a month or two.

If Campbell could make a list of the top 10 people he hates most, Bob McDowell would top the list followed closely by Scott Ellis. I'm pretty sure I would take third. It's a great list to be on.
 

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Ellis is a good man. Unfortunately we lose him in a month or two.
He is a good man, but if we're lucky he'll want back on after the two year lay-off.
 

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The good news of course is more than the fact that we will have a bear hunt - it's the message that is sent saying "hunting" is needed to control wildlife populations. This "message" makes it a great day fro NJ hunters. We need to do our work by letting the "non-hunters" know how "biological surplus" and "harvesting" work.

Ant
 

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Story also shows that the policy to date has been driven by politics/emotion versus sound scientific management of wildlife resources. Another hit against the anti's dysfunctional approach to the issue. Hunters come across as much more attuned to reality.
 
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