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William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet 


GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (September 6, 2022)(CNBNewsnet)--In the late 60s, I became an avid hunter, mainly because my father-in-law, Tom Sarlo, liked to hunt. He told great stories about his trips to Wyoming for antelope, Maine for deer, and North Carolina and Maryland for ducks and geese.

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I was one of the founders of the Gloucester City Rod and Gun Club. That organization led me to become an NRA Safety Instructor member of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Club and Ducks Unlimited. 


I recall one meeting of the Federation of Sportsmen Clubs, held in the 70s at the Square Circle in Gibbsboro, where they were selling $5 turkey buttons. The money raised was to import turkeys from Virginia and West Virginia to New Jersey in the hope of establishing a turkey population. Today, according to state Fish and game, between 20,000 to 30,000 turkeys are roaming New Jersey. 

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A rafter of turkeys was walking in the area of Cold Springs Drive and Thompson Avenue recently. The turkey population on the east side of Gloucester City and nearby Brooklawn continues to grow each year. We counted 14 turkeys on this particular day.  (CNBNewsnet photo October 2012)

Looking back, we probably should not have messed with 'Mother Nature' as many communities today are having a problem dealing with their local turkey population. Some turkeys attack vehicles, chase after people, and damage properties with their scat. In 2019 the turkeys became such a nuisance in Toms River the state Department of Environmental Protection trapped scores of turkeys and relocated them elsewhere.  A search of Wikipedia reveals turkeys have been known to be aggressive toward humans and pets in residential areas. Wild turkeys have a social structure and pecking order, and habituated turkeys may respond to humans and animals like other turkeys. Habituated turkeys may attempt to dominate or attack people the birds view as subordinates.


I hunted in the Pine Barrens and the Delaware Gap in the 70s and 80s. It was a rare sight if you saw a turkey there or elsewhere in any New Jersey forest. The same with Canadian geese. We would always see 1000's of them fly over our homes during the day heading south in October and November, but they rarely stopped in our state. Many a night in the fall, when there was a full moon,  you would lay in your bed listening to the flocks of geese honking back and forth. Sleep would come as I dreamt about the day I might shoot a goose and bring one home for dinner.  However, that isn't the case today. Canadian geese have become so heavily populated in New Jersey they have also become pests for many of the same reasons that turkeys caused. 


During the period I was chasing whitetail deer and other species, one favorite topic that would come up when a group of NJ hunters got together would be the black bear. The question that would spur the discussion was, will we ever see a black bear in the state's southern portion? In North Jersey and the western part of the state, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one. But bears were never sighted here in the southern part of the state.  




 The  Monroe Township Police Department (Gloucester County, NJ) alerted the public on August 21 that a black bear was last seen headed towards the Glassboro Wildlife Management area in nearby Glassboro. 

Police issued the following information about the species. 

A black bear passing through an area and not causing a problem should be left alone. People should leave the area and allow the bear to continue on its way. When frightened, bears may seek refuge by climbing trees. If the bear does go up a tree, clear the area and give the bear time to climb down and escape.

Screen Shot 2022-09-01 at 13.11.51A black bear and her cubs in Northern New Jersey


According to the New Jersey Herald, there were numerous sightings of black bears in Gloucester County in 2020

Gloucester County didn't have any bear sightings or other reports in 2019 but had 23 in 2020, and Middlesex County went from a single report in 2019 to 16 in 2020.

In Hunterdon County, the bear count went from 83 to 85. But in other areas there was a dramatic increase. Bergen County went from 20 incident reports to 75 and urban Hudson County went from zero in 2019 to five complaints in 2020.

Black bear hunting was stopped in 2021 by Governor Phil Murphy.  Hunters argue that because of Murphy's action, there will be more sightings and more people getting injured by bears shortly. 

Gary Devine, a longtime bear hunter, and friend, stated, "Gov Murphy banned the black bear hunt on state public land in 2018, but land owners could hunt bears on their property. From 2019 to 2022, Murphy stopped bear hunting everywhere in the state. Most states with a good black bear population have a bear hunt except for New Jersey.  The NJ Division of Wildlife has Black bear Biologists who are educated in Wildlife numbers say a bear hunt is needed to cure the overpopulation."

After seeing what happened when man messed with the turkeys and geese, I wonder if someday we will see that same pattern play out with the black bears in this state.

My father-in-law Tom got involved in hunting when he was a kid. He lived in Westville Grove near Almonesson Road. And during the fall months, when duck hunting was allowed, he would walk to a nearby creek from his home to hunt ducks before school began. He also was an avid deep sea fisherman and was the captain of a 40-foot boat; the Connie B II, docked in Wildwood Crest. He continued his love for the outdoors until he had to stop because of health problems. The month before he died, he asked me to take him with me to the woods on the opening day of deer hunting. Looking back, I wished I had, but I was afraid if something happened to him on my watch, I would never forgive myself, and neither would my wife. He passed the following month at age 75.  As for myself, I stopped chasing the Grey Ghost, along with ducks and geese, about 17 years ago. My family members no longer ate wildlife, and I  didn't see any reason to hunt if the game I killed wasn't going to be eaten. I miss those times. And often, I look at the photos I have from those memorable days afield.