It’s a contradictory world. Politicians like New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy promise they’ll “follow the science” when it comes to wildlife management.
And they do, until the science bumps up against a political promise.
Then, it’s “science, I don’t see no science.”
It’s promise kept to the animal rights advocates who cajoled Murphy (with votes) into promising “there will be no bear hunt in New Jersey this year. Period.” Startlingly, he appears to be keeping that promise, despite the New Jersey Fish & Game Council’s approving an “emergency bear hunt” in the state to help curb what has become a legitimate problem in the areas of the state that have more farmers than liberal voters.
How’d they get here? It’s a long, involved, and highly political story. Ten years ago, the NJ State Supreme Court ruled that no bear hunt could be held unless it was part of a comprehensive management policy. Since then, two comprehensive management policies (five years each) have come-and-gone. The latest was never approved by Environmental Commissioner Shawn LaTourette. The previous one expired a few days after he took office. Without his signature, it doesn’t go to Murphy for his final approval.
Consequently, there are an estimated 3,100 bears in New Jersey, double the 1,522 population of 2018 the last year a hunt was allowed on state-owned lands. In that last hunt, about forty percent of those bears were taken on state-owned lands.
Backtracking a bit, Murphy made stopping the bear hunts a platform in his campaign. He promised to stop all bear hunting, but couldn’t. Instead, he stopped all bear hunting (but not deer or game birds) on state lands. The NJ Supreme Court said he could do that.
Now, rural New Jersey (the area with fewer voters but more bears) is paying the price for the promise made by the Murphy campaign. Reports of human/bear problems have increased, farmers are seeing significant damage to cash crops, and the whole deal is once again back in the news.
Interestingly enough, just across the river in New York City, there’s a gigantic hue-and-cry going up calling for the utter destruction of a significantly smaller pest: the spotted lantern fly.
Seems this attractive, but invasive insect has a couple of decidedly undesirable traits: it has no natural predators (it is an invasive), will lay eggs on virtually any surface, and has reproductive capacities that are described as “prodigious” by scientists.
The Spotted Lanternfly in all its forms is under a death sentence (See it. Squish it.) across the country. Photo by Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture via the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center.
And this one other thing: it feeds (also prodigiously) on the sap of about 70 plants, making their victims susceptible to disease and/or destruction from natural antagonists. But the preferred victim of these little critters are grapes. And in New York, especially upstate New York in the finger lakes region, grapes mean wine, and wine is decidedly a big money enterprise.
So, this bit of advice offered to New Yorkers from Ronnit Bendavid-Val of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden via the New York Times: “If you see one, squish it.”
It sounds amusing, but this little critter is no joke. In Pennsylvania, there’s a Spotted Lanternfly Order of Quarantine and Treatment, in place. It declares the Lycorma delicatula a “public nuisance” that’s “destructive to the agriculture, horticulture and forests of the Commonwealth.”
It also describes quarantine procedures, imposes fines and even criminal penalties on anyone who intentionally moves the bug at any stage in its life. Because of its ability to lay eggs on virtually any surface, the forbidden movement references moving eggs via “recreational vehicles, tractors, mowers, grills, tarps, mobile homes, tile, stone, deck boards or fire pits.”
Like they said, “See them. Squish them.”
We’ll keep you posted.
— Jim Shepherd