Bear hunt protesters charged with freeing cub from trap
VERNON — Two members of a group that is opposed to the New Jersey bear hunt were issued summonses over the weekend after they released a bear cub from a trap in a residential neighborhood.
Catherine McCartney, 50, of the Highland Lakes section of Vernon, and Mark H. Nagelhout, of Park Ridge, were issued the citations on Saturday, according to Larry Hajna of the Department of Environmental protection. The citations came after they and another person were found "actively engaged in releasing a young bear from the trap," Hajna said.
The trap that the bear was being freed from had been set near the Great Gorge condo complex on Oct. 23 after a resident reported being charged by a bear 10 days earlier, though the woman only reported the incident the day before the trap was set, Hajna said. A second trap that had been placed in the same area after a man claimed a bear had charged at him was removed on Oct. 25. Hajna said state policy is to remove traps if they have not caught the targeted bear within a week.
"It is not known if the two incidents involved the same bear or different bears," Hajna said.
Hajna also said the bear that the people were trying to free is not believed to be the same bear involved in either of the two reported incidents. A video post on Facebook by a page for "The BEAR Group" purports to have audio of the trapped bear cub "crying out for his mother, who was nearby waiting for him."
Doris Lin, an attorney for the bear group, would not comment on whether McCartney or Nagelhout were trying to free the cub from the trap, only saying they were there to "document" that the cub was in the trap. On its Facebook page, the group says it has "great concerns" about the authenticity of the incidents leading to the traps being set.
Lin told New Jersey 101.5 that in the incident with the man, it is believed that the bear "bluff charged" the man, or only gave the impression of charging as a means to scare the man off. She said the man stumbled as he ran away and went to the police limping from his own injuries, not ones caused by the bear.
The Bear Group's post also blamed the development's property management and the state for the animals in the area being able to have access to "unnatural food sources" and using technology to help keep bears away.
"People really need to control garbage and bear attractants to to keep bears out of residential neighborhoods," Lin said. "They should stay in the woods where they belong and people should not be feeding them. The problem is not the number of bears. The problem is these conflicts with bears and the conflicts are the result of unsecured garbage."
They were cited for obstructing a government function by means of interference, disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous or physically dangerous condition, and disturbing the condition of real property in tended for use in the lawful taking of wildlife.
The number of bears killed this year was drastically reduced after Gov. Phil Murphy banned the hunt on all state owned and controlled lands.The group has demanded that the second section, set to be held in December, be cancelled.