When most people think of New Jersey, wildlife is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, it seems surprising that a state branded with such a “dirty” image could ever be making news for its “overabundance” of wildlife.
But that is exactly what has happened: A massive bear hunt is now under way in the state — an effort that has resulted in 264 black-bear deaths in just the first day of the initiative, according to a report from the New Jersey Herald (NJH).
The number of deaths could reach 700 by the end of the week-long hunt — a figure state officials say is necessary to control the Garden State’s black-bear population, which totals about 3,000, the NJH adds.
Call me a hypocrite, but you’re not going to see me on a hunger strike over this issue. However, there are some points worth raising that seem…well, common sense to me.
To start, I cannot omit the obvious: The bears were here first. Yes, it sounds cliché — they have nowhere else to go. But it’s really disheartening, when you think about it. We have overdeveloped so much of this country’s land that, compared with other parts of the world, wildlife seems pretty scarce — especially large mammals like the black bear. Sure, we have squirrels and rabbits and mice, but not many large species remain.
Speaking of overdevelopment, I rarely — if ever — hear about these “bear hunts” or similar efforts occurring in less-populated areas of the country. For instance, in the mountains of New Hampshire, bears pose no more of a concern to the locals than raccoons would in New Jersey. And yes, bears can be dangerous, if provoked, I suppose…but aren’t coyotes, too?
Call me naïve. But couldn’t at least some of these bears be transported to places like New Hampshire’s White Mountains? I know what you’re thinking: It costs money! We’re in an economic downturn! But these bear hunts aren’t exactly free, either. To me, it seems like the easy way out: Kill the bears, and have it be done with.
No, black bears are not endangered…yet. But if this is the way we deal with what we erroneously refer to as wildlife “overpopulation,” what’s next? The October issue of National Geographic featured an analysis linking human migration into the Americas with the disappearance of large land mammals. However, there’s one difference worth nothing: Back then, it was a matter of survival, not inconvenience.
To be fair, I’m not even a vegetarian. There, I said it. But these bear hunts just seem like meaningless killings, and if we don’t be careful, we could be dooming one of our most beloved animal species.