Fight over bear hunt continues in NJ Supreme Court

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:52

    The state Supreme Court is considering whether to allow plans for a December bear hunt to move forward while it hears a request to stop the hunt completely. Environmental Commissioner Bradley Campbell has appealed a lower court decision upholding the hunt and is asking the Supreme Court to halt the process of issuing hunting permits in the meantime. Justices have asked lawyers for the state and two hunting groups to file by Monday their arguments in the latest round of the ongoing dispute. Earlier last week, a three-judge appellate panel determined that Campbell had overstepped his powers last month when he refused to process thousands of hunters' permit applications for the six-day firearms hunt. The hunt was sanctioned by the independent Fish and Game Council. The appellate court ruled that under current state law, full authority to set hunting and fishing seasons had been vested in the council, and that the panel was within its right to set a bear season if scientific data supplied by state biologists supported a hunt. The council set a bear season to help control the growing black bear potion. A separate fight on the hunt remains before the lower court. The appellate panel has been asked to overturn Campbell's decree shutting public lands in the northwest corner of the state to a bear hunt. Campbell supported last year's bear hunt, the first in New Jersey in 33 years, but has said he now wants to pursue alternative methods for managing the bear population. Meanwhile, a report by state wildlife investigators indicates two Boy Scouts' encounter with three bears in Warren County was more serious than initially reported. The incident involving two 60-pound cubs and a mother bear happened a week ago at the Yards Creek Scout Reservation in Blairstown. Investigators said the bears pawed at the Scouts, ages 13 and 14, for about an hour. One Scout was bitten on the hand and arm by one of the cubs. The other Scout was bitten on the coat sleeve but came away from the confrontation with only scrapes. The state Department of Environmental Protection did not release results of an internal investigation of the incident until Friday afternoon. The DEP cited a delay in consulting with the Division of Fish and Wildlife officer who made the original report. Hunter groups have questioned the delay, but a DEP spokeswoman denied there was any attempt to withhold news of the incident.