HAZLET — About 36 animal rights advocates lined the north bound side of Route 36 at Poole Avenue in Hazlet Thursday evening to protest the death of a black bear on Memorial Day weekend.
Car horns blared in support of the group, while others jeered. A passerby yelled, “Go home.” One protester’s response: We’re in New Jersey, this is our home.
The bear was killed by Union Beach police on May 28, after a four-hour stakeout, and after police were denied assistance from the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, police have said.
Lauretta Iavarone, a local business owner from Red Bank, said her conscience motivated her to attend the protest. She said the killing of the bear was a real shame.
“Even though I do understand the parameters, it’s very sad and it makes you sad,” Iavarone said.
Janine Motta, programs director at the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, said they organized a protest to raise awareness about bear populations being relocated and growing in new areas, and to tell people that the state isn’t providing tools to mitigate this situation.
“This really has to be exposed and has to be talked about more,” Motta said.
Motta said the local police department has told her the department is very responsive and open to having a conversation about bear safety education programs and using nonlethal options in the future.
She said state officials refused to tranquilize the bear, because the incident was reported at night. It was also on Sunday.
This particular bear was obviously part of the state’s relocation effort, because it was registered in Stillwater, which is too great a distance for a bear to travel undetected and without incident, Motta said.
Susan M. Kearney, a member of Bear Education and Resource who helped organize Thursday’s event, said the overall response from the Union Beach community has been very positive.
“I think it was a great turnout. It’s more people than we expected,” Kearney said.
The bear was first spotted on May 27 near Edmunds Avenue.
Around 10 p.m. that day, Union Beach police sent a warning to local residents to stay away from the animal. Then police contacted state Fish & Wildlife for assistance — requesting the state tranquilize and relocate the bear. Fish & Wildlife denied the local request saying, “this is outside of our protocol,” according to a police department Facebook post.
The statement further said the state department provided “rudimentary” instructions on how to handle the situation, which included: Warn homeowners and pedestrians about the situation, turn emergency lights away from the animal and follow its movements from a safe distance.
The local officers followed these suggestion “to the letter,” the police wrote on Facebook.
After hours of monitoring the bear from a safe distance, the animal headed toward Florence Avenue, a busy area inundated with residents and weekend traffic.
The police department post further said the decision to put the bear down “was not made lightly. However, the safety of residents and their families must always take top priority.”
Another large bear was spotted in Middletown on Friday, May 26, but it’s unclear whether it was the same animal.