Those New Jersey bears!
By Alan Caruba
Any state that takes more than thirty years to figure out what to do with its growing bear population is just not dealing with the real world.
It's not enough to have a government phone number to call to complain about the bear trying to break into your house. When you run the nation's most densely populated state, you need to start getting rid of a lot of bears before people start getting killed by the really hungry ones.
I am talking, of course, about New Jersey. It took thirty years between the last bear hunt and one in 2003. The situation in my home state was wonderfully captured in a scene from The Soprano's when Tony is sitting in his backyard and is startled to see a black bear amble onto his property. That had the Mafia don reaching for the biggest gun he could find.
So now we are into the latest chapter in the glorious struggle between those morons who would not permit a single living wildlife creature be killed—bears, deer, Canadian geese—and those who, between January and August of this year, called the Fish and Wildlife Division with 805 bear complaints. Do we have a bear problem? Yes, the same time last year totaled 519 complaints. As they say, do the math!
The latest government response is "a proposed management policy" released early in September by "environmental authorities" who have charted a "bear exclusion zone" covering urban and suburban areas. As the late Jack Paar used to say, "I kid you not."
Instead of gearing up to hand out as many hunting licenses as possible, the geniuses responsible for New Jersey's environment have drafted a 47-page policy that now awaits approval of the director of the state's Department of Environmental Protection. After, of course, a public review period. "The jury is still out until the public voice has been heard," said Bradley Campbell, the DEP director, in early September.
I suggest that 805 members of the public calling the Fish and Wildlife Division is the public voice. How many other voices of the public who decided not to call while waiting for Mr. Bear to leave will never be known.
The rather simple issue of what to do about New Jersey's ever growing bear population was even the topic of an August editorial in the state's largest circulation daily newspaper, the Star-Ledger. As it succinctly noted, any management plan the state proposes "will flop, hunt or no hunt, unless the state makes sure it has the money to make it work." This is why editorial writers make the big bucks. The cost of "proper bear management" noted the writer, "has been estimated at about $1 million a year."
Here again, the arithmetic is irrefutable: The more bears, the more it is going to cost to "manage" them. Why? Because the idiotic management plan includes wasting public money on programs to educate people about "the need to bear-proof their garbage, trains misbehaving bears to stay away from humans, traps and relocates recalcitrant bears, and hires additional workers needed for a truly comprehensive effort."
We do not need a "truly comprehensive effort." We need fewer bears in New Jersey. There were at last count 5,200 hunters who, in 2003, actually paid for the privilege of bagging a couple at their own expense. Meanwhile, if you are too stupid to "bear-proof" your garbage cans, you should definitely move somewhere less attractive to bears. That may become less of an option, however, because, as the editorial noted, "They break into homes in Sussex County; they wander the streets of Woodbridge and Trenton." In fact, they have been spotted all over the state with the exception of downtown Newark. Even bears are smart enough not to go there.
"Hunting has a legitimate role," conceded the editorial, but then it veered off into La-La Land suggesting that "contraception experiments" should also be funded, along, of course, with those "aggressive programs to lock down the trash bears loved to munch." Meanwhile, the latest news on a similar deer contraception program is that it has been a predictable failure.
So, you see, it's really the fault of human beings and their garbage. According to the Tree-Huggers and Defenders of Animals, everything that Mother Nature inflicts on us is our fault.
Never mind that New Jersey is such a lovely place to live that bears keep happily reproducing while those danged human beings keep trying to find a reasonably priced home in which to live. And, presumably, affordable bear-proof garbage cans.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, September 2005
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