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Yin and yang bear management in NJ. (Expeditions).

State simultaneously considers hunting season and also contraception backed by antis.

In New Jersey, a state where the black bear population is estimated to be as high as 3,200 animals, the state Department of Environmental Protection is looking at some widely divergent ways of managing rapidly growing bruin numbers, including holding the state's first bear hunt since 1970.

At a meeting last March, the state Fish and Game Council voted 10-1 to propose a bear hunt to run December 8-13 after looking at data provided by the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The season would run concurrent with the six-day firearms buck season, take place in the northern third of the state and would be open to shotgun and muzzleloader hunters.

The proposal was slated to go through a public hearing procedure this past spring, and the Fish and Game Council will ultimately need to give its final approval to the season at a meeting later this year.

A bear hunt is just one avenue being explored by the DEP, however. The agency recently announced it will also be working with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on a pilot project to study using the immunocontraceptive Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP)--a vaccine that causes female bears' antibodies to block sperm from binding to their eggs--as a non-lethal approach to manage the bear population.

According to the DEP, the pilot will begin with a study on captive bears. The HSUS will provide and administer the vaccine, while state biologists will assist in examining the animals. If PZP shows significant evidence of being safe and effective, DEP said, the HSUS will then need to acquire FDA approval before testing the vaccine on wild bruins.

At this point, the DEP and HSUS have not released any cost estimates for the program. However, in an interview with PETERSEN'S HUNTING, Mark Fraker, president of immunocontraceptive development and research leader at TerraMar Environmental Research Ltd. (which is not involved with the DEP/HSUS program), said developing a commercially available drug that could be used specifically for black bears may not be practical because of the relatively large number of animals needed for FDA-mandated trials and due to the expenses associated with the process.

"The regulatory approval process could cost something approaching $5 million," said Fraker, a wildlife biologist who spoke at the 17th Eastern Black Bear Workshop in Mount Olive, New Jersey, last March.

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Author:Demko, Mark
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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