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One of the animal rights groups that took the state to court in a failed bid to stop this year’s bear hunt claims it has a powerful force on its side: New Jersey voters.
A six-day season that ends Saturday opens the woods of northwestern New Jersey to black bear hunters. On its website, the Bear Education and Resource Group accuses the state Division of Fish and Wildlife of "promoting recreational trophy hunting against public opinion."
When PolitiFact New Jersey viewed the website on Dec. 6, it read "99% of NJ voters do NOT support hunting. And over 70% of comments submitted to F&W’s public hearing on their Black Bear Management Policy were AGAINST bear hunting. But they were ignored in favor of the 1% of residents who enjoy killing for fun."
Can that many New Jerseyans -- 99 percent of residents in the Garden State -- agree on anything?
If bear hunting is an example, probably not.
Before last year’s bear hunt, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll conducted a survey of New Jersey voters that asked two questions.
The first asked whether residents agreed or disagreed with allowing bear hunting in New Jersey "if wildlife scientists conclude that bears are exceeding their recommended habitat limits and are destroying private property?"
Fifty-three percent of respondents agreed, 36 percent disagreed and 11 percent said they were unsure.
The other question asked voters if they approved or disapproved of "allowing a bear hunting season in New Jersey."
For that question, 49 percent of respondents said they approved, 33 percent disapproved and 18 percent said they were unsure.
The results from either question had a margin of error of five percentage points.
"In general, people think [hunting]’s more benign than not. But you certainly find currents of sympathy running in different directions," said Peter Woolley, the director of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll, noting differences in opinion between men and women, as well as urban and nonurban areas.
The Humane Society of the United States, which opposes bear hunts, commissioned a poll before last year’s bear hunt that was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. One of the poll questions asked New Jersey voters: "The state of New Jersey has protected black bears since 1970 with only two trophy hunts permitted in the past forty years. The state is now considering allowing hunters to kill up to 400 black bears. Do you support or oppose the hunting of black bears in New Jersey?"
That poll found 45 percent of respondents opposed the hunting of black bears, 35 percent supported it and 20 percent were unsure. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four percent.
Although the polls results differ, both show that opposition to bear hunting in New Jersey does not begin to approach the black bear advocacy group’s claim of 99 percent. Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said, "99 percent is absurd."
Dale Jones, vice president of merchandise for the Bear Education and Resource Group, said "the statement is wrong," noting that it meant to say "99 percent of New Jersey voters don’t hunt."
State data generally supports that claim, but the group’s website says 99 percent of New Jersey voters do not support hunting -- not that they don’t hunt. That’s a significant difference.
A black bear advocacy group claimed on its website that 99 percent of New Jersey voters oppose hunting.
That number is way off. The organization acknowledges it’s wrong, but late in the afternoon on Dec. 7, more than a day after PolitiFact New Jersey initially contacted the group, the statement was still on the website -- even after Jones said a webmaster would be notified to change it.*
The statement drops to the ridiculous level for that reason, earning a Pants on Fire!
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
Bear Education and Resource Group, Website Homepage, accessed Dec. 6, 2011
Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll, Bear Necessity? Public Approves of Bear Hunt, Nov. 15, 2010
The Humane Society of the United States, New Poll Reveals NJ Residents Oppose Trophy Hunting of Black Bears, April 16, 2010
Interview with Peter Woolley, director of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll, Dec. 6, 2011
Interview with Dale Jones, vice president of merchandise for Bear Education and Resource Group, Dec. 6, 2011
The Star-Ledger, Animal rights group asks N.J. appellate court to cancel upcoming bear hunt, Nov. 29, 2011
The Star-Ledger, N.J. bear hunt's outset yields big-game kills, activist protests, Dec. 6, 2011
The Star-Ledger, Appeals court: N.J. bear hunt to proceed as planned, Dec. 1, 2011
Interview with Larry Ragonese, spokesman for New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Dec. 6 and 7, 2011
Email interview with Stephanie Twining, a spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States, Dec. 6, 2011
The Humane Society of the United States, New Jersey’s Bears: A Timeline, Jan. 28, 2010
New Jersey Division of Elections, Statewide Voter Registration Summary Report by County, accessed Dec. 7, 2010
New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, New Jersey's Black Bear Hunting Season, accessed Dec. 7, 2011
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