Opening day for New Jersey’s black bear hunt archery portion began on Monday, October 9, 2017.
Amy Newman/

ASBURY PARK, N.J. — What is likely to be New Jersey’s final black bear hunt for the foreseeable future begins Monday morning at sunrise, the political winds having shifted once again around the divisive issue of how to control the state’s bruin population

Incoming governor Phil Murphy is sticking to his campaign promise to impose a moratorium on bear hunting when he takes office in January. He released a statement  Friday that cast doubt on hunting as the most effective means of bear control.  

“In the past, the bear hunt has been expanded without local input or evidence that it is effective at controlling the bear population,” Murphy said. “My first concern will always be for public safety, but before authorizing another hunt we need a fuller understanding and proof it works better than non-lethal options in the state’s long-term bear management policies. As governor my administration will institute a moratorium on the state’s bear hunt.” 

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Hunters have seen this moment coming ever since Murphy trounced Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who favored the bear hunt, in the general election. But Murphy’s pivot away from hunting and toward non-lethal controls, such as trash can management, comes after eight consecutive years of bear hunting under Gov. Chris Christie, and with the data showing a dramatic decrease in the number of bear complaints. 

“People do a much better job at garbage control now than they did before,” said John Rogalo, a self-described lifelong hunter who is president of the Morris County chapter of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. “To abandon a policy that is working just to satisfy a political agenda is irresponsible.” 

Tom Frepaul, the co-owner of Simon Peter, a hunting and fishing store in Newton, said he hasn’t seen a surge in bear hunt permits, even though this is likely the last chance.