William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet
Phil Brodhecker, a farmer in Sussex County, shows the damage done to his corn crop by black bears. Video courtesy of the New Jersey Herald
SUSSEX COUNTY NJ (CNBNewsnet)--The New Jersey Herald reported recently that the state's black bear population appears to be increasing, based on the number of reported serious encounters with humans. Ever since the Murphy administration stopped bear hunting, farmers have seen more and more damage to their crops and there have been more human encounters with bears. To make matters worst, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has had no official bear management plan for the last two years.
Without the plan, the division did not make an estimate of the bear population in the state's northwest area last year and won't do so this year.
The last count was done in 2020 and coincided with the last statewide bear hunt. At that time there were about 3,158 bears in northwestern New Jersey, specifically in the areas previously designated as bear hunting zones north of Route 80 and west of Route 287.
According to the New Jersey Herald, there have been reported incidents of bears trying to break into homes and also chasing livestock. The Fish and Game Council reported in May that there was a 127% increase in bear encounters from the same time period in 2021.
Do you think the public's fear of black bears wandering about in northwest New Jersey is warranted?
Before you answer consider this fact; a 700-pound black bear was harvested in 2019 by a bowhunter in the same area where farmers and residents are having problems with bears today.
The 700-pound bear was shot by Jeff Melillo on Oct. 14, 2019, in Morris County during NJ's bow season. It was the biggest bear ever taken in North America.
On Feb. 8, the bowhunting and conservation group Pope and Young Club assembled a special panel of judges during the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Penn. to verify the record, the club said in a news release.
Melillo’s bear scored 23 5/16, toppling a record set in 1993 by a hunter in Mendocino County, Calif.
"It has been an inspiring journey, to say the least,” Melillo, a native of New Jersey, said in a statement. “Many years ago, I read an article in Outdoor Life magazine stating that the new world record black bear will most likely come from New Jersey. They were spot on, and I never doubted it for one second.”
Eli Randall, records director for the Pope and Young Club said, "I knew I was going to be looking at an impressive black bear skull, as it was officially measured at over 23 inches and weighed in at 700 pounds. I was not prepared for the amount of mass the skull possessed, not only was the skull huge, but the bone structure was the heaviest I had ever seen.”