Unlike deer hunting, which many sportsmen make an annual ritual, bear hunting tends to be a one-time event — a hunter gets his or her trophy and does not return for another one.
State wildlife officials here are trying to get the word out: Bear tastes good.
Hunters who bring in a bear to be weighed when the season starts in December will even receive a cookbook with recipes like “bear satay on a stick” and “grilled bear loin with brown sugar paste.”
“It’s tasty,” Kelcey Burguess, the bear project leader and principal biologist for the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, said of the meat. “It tastes like beef. I like cooking the ribs slowly.”
The object is not really to get more people to cook bear; it is to get more people to shoot one.
In 2010, in an effort to deal with its growing bear population, and over the objections of animal rights activists, the State of New Jersey reintroduced bear hunting, with a six-day season to run for five consecutive years. Wildlife officials estimated in 2010 that there were 3,400 bears living north of Interstate 80, which divides the state.
But hunting has proved a thorny management tool. That first year, 592 black bears were killed and taken to weigh stations like the one here at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Sussex County. But each year since, the number has dropped, and in 2013, just 251 bears were brought in.