Battle of the NJ Bear Hunt Polls

grown black bear

When the Humane Society announced a poll this week that showed New Jersey residents opposed a bear 44% to 41%, it kicked out a discussion of whether the results are really true. Different polls are all over the map. Hunters point to this 2004 poll saying 66% of New Jersey residents support hunting in general. But of course that’s not bear hunting (another poll shows approval of bear hunting at 47% nationwide).

So I asked the company that did the state poll–and which specializes in hunting-related surveys–about their full results. Mark Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, was nice enough to send me the links to two thorough surveys they did on New Jersey hunting attitudes and the way people view hunting different species.

Duda doubts this week’s poll results. “I’d have to see how the question was worded but that result would fly in the face of all other research,” he says. Indeed, the poll question does push. I wish they had just asked a straightforward question.

QUESTION: 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?

But the results fall in line almost exactly with a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind 2007 poll that also had 44% disapproving and 41% approving and that question was straightforward:

 Now lastly, thinking

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NJ Hunters Suspicious of Any Poll That Shows People Don’t Like Bear Hunting

Bear on logs

The Humane Society released a poll Sunday showing that a plurality (45%) of New Jersey residents oppose the bear hunt the state just approved for this winter. Expect a backlash of hunters who don’t believe it, but the survey isn’t a fluke: it shows the long-term decline of the popularity of hunting.

The survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. that showed 45% of voters oppose the hunt versus 35% supporting it, with 4% margin of error. I would’ve like to see more than 635 people polled, but it’s still random. And it shows the growing discomfort with hunting bears just for fun. Public opinion has shifted–ever so slightly–against hunting since a similar 2004 poll by Fairly Dickinson University. That survey 44%  of NJ residents disapproves a hunt and 41% approved.  They polled 701 voters and had a margin of error of 4%.

As I’ve pointed out before, NJOA tells its members that “there are 650,000 of us, which is approximately 15% of all voters.” They’re counting people who hunt OR fish. And then it seems just for good measure doubling their numbers.

The reality is hunting is in decline. The latest National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-Associated Recreational say of 7 million New Jersey residents, only 1% hunt, about 86,000 people hunt, but 23%, or 1.5 million, like to watch wildlife. But state wildlife agencies, funded only by hunting permits, serve hunters almost exclusively. Hunters spend $137 million in New Jersey, but wildlife watchers spent $631

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Hawk Expert Says Attacking CT Hawk May Have to Be Removed–or at Least Scared

The red-tailed hawk that’s been swooping down on people in leafy Stonington, CT, may have to be trapped and removed, says Len Soucy, a wildlife rehabilitator, founder of New Jersey’s Raptor Trust, and one of the world’s most experienced  hawk experts.

“When there’s a nuisance hawk, I relocate it,” Soucy says, “so people don’t hate all the hawks on earth because one hawk is acting foolish.”

Soucy has the traps, permits and experience to trap a red-tailed hawk, but it’s still a last resort. The hawk is probably protecting his territory in advance of nesting season, which starts over the next couple months, he says. He might try to condition the hawk with loud noise first, a process that can take a while work.

Birders travel great distances to see hawks, but this particular CT hawk in will come directly to you. And then he’ll swoop at your head and maybe steal your hat or headphones, the Day reports. The bird has attacked five times since last summer, mostly on the cul de sac of Shawondasee Drive and Carriage Drive. The nearby Deans Mill School now has recess and gym inside, though, just in case.

Hawk attacks on people and pets may continue to rise along with the numbers of red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) . (They’re one of the many birds recovered thanks to bans on DDT and reactionary killing of birds of prey.)  Soucy says he’s gotten two reports of similarly belligerent hawks in New

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The One Percent of NJ Residents Who Hunt Aim For Bear This December

Bear gathering apples

With the election of a Republican governor, Chris Christie, New Jersey restarting its bear war. The first hunt in five years will almost certainly scheduled for this December. The one percent of New Jersey residents who hunt  are eager to get started.

That’s right, only one percent of of New Jersey residents hunt. The latest National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-Associated Recreational of the Fish and Wildlife Service says that in a population of 7 million, only about 86,000 people hunt, or 1%. By contrast 1.5 million or 23% like to watch wildlife.

Does the 1% figure sound low? That’s because hunters like to exaggerate their numbers. Anthony Mauro, head of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, urged hunters to vote for Christie in part so they could shoot bear: “The outdoorsmen/women of NJ can make the difference – remember, there are 650,000 of us, which is approximately 15% of all voters.”

Who are these phantom hunters he’s talking about? NJ Outdoor Alliance claims in its “Just the Facts” section that the state has “562,000 hunters and anglers…among the most prominent and influential of all demographic groups, spending more than $1 billion a year on hunting and fishing, according to a new report.”

What report are they citing? The same one I am. Only they are counting anglers. That’s people who fish, not hunt bear. There are eight times as many recreational fishermen than hunters. And that 15%? Who knows? That’s almost double the percentage of people who

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Jersey Town Illegally Pushes Tired, Lost Seal Into Wrong Body of Water

A snow plow driver found a seal wandering in Woodbridge.Photo credit: Woodbridge Township

The adult harp seal that hauled out on Sixth Avenue in Port Reading, NJ, during the blizzard was lost and just wanted to rest, says Sheila Dean, co-founder of Brigantine’s Marine Mammal Stranding Center. Instead, animal control dragged him back to where he shouldn’t have been–two miles inland, up the Woodbridge River.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act bans anybody without proper training from handling seals. Town workers used what describes as “a mouthpiece normally used to capture dogs.” I’m pretty sure what they’re talking about is a noose pole, which could hurt the seal.

The right response would have been to call the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (609) 266-0538 (or, if you are in another state, another agency that’s part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network). They would have come right away to assess the seal, Dean says.

“Because this animal is so far inland, we would have taken him and released him somewhere else,” Dean says. “He’s just a little bit lost and confused and really looking for a spot to rest.”

The location is about two miles up the Woodbridge River from the Arthur Kill, the waterway that separates New Jersey from Staten Island. Trained rescuers would have driven him there (about a mile by car.) Now no one knows where he is.

After swimming all the way from the arctic they like to lay out in the sun and build up their oxygen

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Ilya the Manatee Recovering, Impressing Ladies with His Sweetness

Ilya, the Florida manatee rescued from New York harbor two weeks ago, should be well enough to be released in the Florida Keys in about a month, says Dr. Maya Rodriguez, the veterinarian at the Miami Seaquarium, which supplied the picture of Ilya (left) swimming with his poolmate. “We expect him to get a clean medical mill in next couple weeks,” says Dr. Rodriguez. Identified by his mangled tail and white scar on his forehead, Ilya at least didn’t pick up any new distinguishing scars on his journey up to Cape Cod that perplexed marine biologists.  Stuck in the cold water of New York harbor, Ilya initially suffered cold stress, which can shut down manatees’ long digestive track and immune system. He lost about 100 of his 1,200 pounds, had low blood sugar and was having trouble digesting, Dr. Rodriguez says. A video (below) of the event shows him getting wrapped in mylar survival blankets and getting spritzed with water to keep moist. Ilya is recuperating in a 82 degree saltwater pool at the Seaquarium with an orphaned, female,  18-month-old manatee picked up in the Everglades and named Glade. Normally Dr. Rodriguez would be reluctant to put such a big male in with her but Ilya has been very gentle. “He’s just a really docile manatee,” Dr. Rodriguez says.  Ilya is unusual among manatees, which normally handle food just with their prehensible lips, because he grabs with his flippers. “He’s all flippers,” says Dr. Rodriguez. Ilya, who touches

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Ilya the Manatee May Be Going Wrong Way–Back to NYC

Ilya, the missing manatee, may be headed the wrong way–back up to New York City, instead of down south to Florida and the warm water he needs to survive. Someone saw what they thought was a manatee near Bayonne, NJ, but by the time rescuers came out, there was no animal, says Bob Schoelkopf, founding director of Brigantine’s Marine Mammal Stranding Center, which would rescue Ilya if they could just find and catch him.

FWC photo by Tom Reinert

Ilya, who is 16 and known for his missing tail chunk and a white scar on his head, befuddled scientists by swimming from his native Miami all the way up to Cape Cod this summer. Now he needs to get to waters at least 68 degrees–the Carolinas at this time of year–or he could die.

The last time anyone definitely saw Ilya was when he ate a crate of lettuce from biologists outside the Conoco Phillips refinery in Linden, NJ, last Friday. Then he disappeared into the dark, cold waters of the Arthur Kill, the 10-mile tidal estuary between New Jersey and Staten Island. If that was him near Bayonne, that puts him in the Kill Van Kull, a shorter passage that’s a few miles closer to the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan and the heavy traffic of the Port of Newark.

But rescuers are dubious it really was Ilya. It’s not so much that they think there’s a second manatee up here–though one did spend the summer in Raritan Bay.

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Ilya the Travelling Manattee Missing Again

Ilya, the manatee that reappeared off Staten Island Thursday–way too far north for his safety–has gone missing again, thwarting any attempt to rescue him from the cold waters. Ilya ate a whole case of lettuce “and was last seen going back into the river,” says Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This was late yesterday afternoon, and there’s been no sighting of the animal since then.”

Ilya, a 16-year-old manatee distinguished by his boat scars (a white one on his head and a missing chunk of tail), surprised biologists this summer by migrating all the way up to Cape Cod from his Florida home. Now he’s racing the cold weather–and seems to have been entranced by the false promise of warmth from the warm water run-off of an oil refinery in Elizabeth, NJ. The spot that he’s at is warm enough, says Underwood, but the rest of the Arthur Kill tidal estuary dips below his requisite 68 degrees. That means he should be in North Carolina by now, according to NOAA’s water temperature map. That’s about 200 miles, or three or four days manatee travel.

Biologists figured Ilya was safely headed to warmer waters after he wasn’t seen since an appearance in Milford, CT, on September  26. Then he showed up in a heavily industrial area. Underwood won’t say exactly where–but it’s guarded private property anyway.

The Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Station has plans to rescue him–if they can find him and catch

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Biologists Try to Rescue Ilya the Manatee from Elizabeth, NJ

 Ilya, the manatee who swam all the way up to Cape Cod from Florida this summer, may need to be rescued today from the stormy, cold waters off Elizabeth, NJ, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Chuck Underwood says. The endangered 1,000-pound manatee was positively identified yesterday from photos taken near a refinery in Elizabeth, a heavily industrial part of New York harbor near Staten Island.

For weeks biologists and manatee lovers wondered where Ilya was, hoping he was making it back down to Florida, where manatees need to spend the winter to keep warm enough. He was last seen in Milford, CT, on September 26. So, everyone figured–or at least hoped–that he would be down at least around the Carolinas by now.

Then yesterday, Underwood says, the Wildlife Service got a call: “We’ve got your manatee.” A quick consultation with U.S. Geological Survey NOAA, which keeps an elaborate database of 2,000-some manatees known by their boating scars, confirmed it was Ilya. His run in with boats have made him easy to ID: he has a big chunk taken out of his tail and a white scar on his head. Nicole Adimey, who runs the manatee rescue and rehabilitation program says that he still is relatively lucky for a manatee: he’s never before had to be brought in for treatment.

Right now the wildlife service is trying to keep Ilya in place at a private, undisclosed refinery while a Nor’easter storm blows through. He was attracted to the

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Meet the Manatee Profiler

When I heard of biologists using manatees’ many boat scars to tell them apart, I pictured a fast CSI-like computer sorting flippers like fingerprints until, seconds later, MATCH flashed on the screen. Unfortunately, says wildlife biologist Cathy Beck, who runs the program for the U.S. Geological Survey, it’s a lot more slow and still requires a human to make a match. (Cops say the same thing about fingerprint matching, too.)

“Years ago we looked at various software,” she says. “It’s way out of the kind of budget we’d ever get.”

So the Geological Survey mantains a meticulous database of 2,200 known manatees known as the Manatee Photo Identification System (MIPS). Of those 300 are known to be dead. With a U.S. population roughly estimated at about 3,000 to 4,000, that could be half the population. But the facts about manatees and their populations are so uncertain that Beck doesn’t like to speculate.

Instead, she’s trying to make sure everything in the database is certain. So, she only allows in manatees that have at least two distinguishing features. There has to be pictures of each manatee’s tail, back and each side. In theory that could be done with just four pictures, she says “but that’s never happened.” And then the match has to be verified by two humans. Complicating the process, manatees are constantly aquiring new injuries and changing their appearance. “We need to keep up,” Beck says. “A new injury may obliterate an old feature.”

At least two

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