How to Open a Bear Trap… and Not Care If You Get Caught

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by Cathy


I‘m a paranoid person. Always prepared for worst-case scenarios. Drive into a lake? Roll the windows down and swim! Zombie attack? Go for the brains! Need to open a bear trap? Throw a bandana over your face and slide the door straight up! Right? Well, things don’t always work out exactly as planned…but they do work out.

I lived in Bear Country for 15 years. Three days before I moved to the city, I learned that a bear cub was caught in one of the Division of Fish & Wildlife's bear traps at Great Gorge, a condo community in the heart of bear habitat.

The DFW was out to get the cub’s mother. She and her cubs were attracted to scraps of food from some of the many open and unlocked dumpsters throughout Great Gorge. For years, the DFW knew the dumpsters were not bear-proof, and they did nothing about it.

The DFW turns a blind eye to the garbage law, issuing just a handful of summonses in the past 5 years for garbage violations. Naturally, this leads to unwanted bear encounters—which are then used by the state to justify the trophy hunt. On top of it all, the DFW kills those bears they deem to be “nuisances” for eating garbage.

And it was only a matter of time before this pro-hunt agency made Mama Bear their next statistic.

My mind replayed the times my friends told me how to open a bear trap. Now all I could think of was how much trouble I’d be in, because I’d been arrested before. But we also knew that if DFW got this cub, they could kill him…or use him to bait his mother, or even shoot her on sight. Or, I could free the cub…and then probably go to jail. I started to feel a little sick.

Trap set at Great Gorge Condos in Vernon.

Trap set at Great Gorge Condos in Vernon.

Mark and Kim Nagelhout.

Mark and Kim Nagelhout.

It was dark and raining and Mark and Kim Nagelhout were at the trap when I got there. Bear Group activists for over 10 years, tonight they acted as watchdogs, documenting the scene.

A few onlookers milled about. The mother bear, along with her 2nd cub, waited in the nearby woods for her trapped child. A security truck was there, and the police had just arrived.

The cop began to ask questions like who were we, were we going to touch the trap. We gave him a pretty weak ‘no.’ It was hard to focus on what he was saying, because someone was talking over him. Loudly.

That someone was the trapped cub. Some people think bears growl…or roar even. But they don’t. They bawl. And his bawling rumbled across the parking lot and bounced off the building. If you didn’t know about bears, you may have thought it was scary. But it wasn’t. This was the sound of something wild. And it would have been a wonderful sound…had it only not been so sad. It wasn’t the sound that went through us. It was the sadness.

Short video of the cub crying. The rain interfered but if you listen closely, you can hear what we heard. Video: Kim Nagelhout.

After what seemed like forever, the cop left. I started to do a Facebook Live, and the three of us walked down the steep driveway toward the trap.

But first we had to pass security. We got closer, and the security guy rolled down his window. I braced myself but all he said was, “Hey, be careful. There are bears over there”. And Kim, just replied coolly, “Yeah, we know. We’re good.” And we didn’t miss a beat and we kept walking.

Was the security guy really afraid to get out of the truck? The cub was crying and the temptation to open the trap was growing. I continued the Facebook Live, bashing DFW for not enforcing the garbage law, and for trapping and killing “nuisance” bears – all to promote trophy hunting. The whole thing is so infuriating I was trying not to cry. And I felt disgusted knowing that the DFW was probably on their way.

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I’ll be honest with you. It’s not that I’m never afraid of authority. Since we are children, it’s drilled into us to behave, “or it will go on your permanent record.” It affected me. But sometimes you reach a tipping point when you’re more angry than afraid. Then, you can pretty much do anything.

And it hit me. The cop wasn’t coming back. I stopped the Facebook Live, because I realized, this is just too easy.

And it was clear that this bear was asking for help. He was literally saying “MOM! HELP ME! LET ME OUT!”

And there are some things, you just can’t say no to. No matter what. And this was definitely one of those things.

So I said to Mark and Kim, “OK, you guys. I’m going to let him out.”

I called upon my bear-trap-opening-knowledge, and yelled over, “Get out of the way!” I pulled on the door…and nothing happened! All my experience talking about how to open a bear trap did not prepare me…that there was some kind of lock on the door.

And then I noticed the headlights at the top of the parking lot. I remember thinking how lame it would be if the cops stopped us before I could open the trap. By some miracle, I realized it wasn’t a lock but a pin. So I pulled the pin out, and grabbed the door and pulled and…

Nothing happened! Again! (@#$%&!) I couldn’t get a good grip on the door because it was raining and slippery.

I called out, “Guys, I need help!” Mark handed Kim the camera, and ran over.


The headlights were now coming down the hill. It seemed the one thing the security guy did all night was to call the police and tell them to come back.

The patrol car came to a stop in front of us. Mark had one side of the trap door and I had the other. We rocked the door from side to side to unstick it, and pulled it up in a see-saw motion.

I was afraid the cub would be too scared to come out. I started kicking the side of the trap, and I called over to Kim to kick the back of the trap.

Instead, Kim said the magic words I’ll never forget, “He’s out! He just scooted right out!”

I never saw the cub.

The cop got out of the car. “You SAID you weren’t going to touch the trap. Now go stand over there,” he said, gesturing toward the car. And we went and stood next to the patrol car and we got arrested. And yes, it’s on our permanent record. And the bear family walked back into the woods, together. And it was all OK.


We spent the evening at the station, waiting for the DFW cop to arrive. Three hours later, he stomped in and disappeared into the next room. He emerged an hour later, and without even looking in our direction, he stomped out. And we were free to go.

In court, Mark got a huge fine. I got a fine and 15 days in jail, which we later appealed. With my jail sentence came much media attention. But I couldn’t have opened the trap in time, surely not with the police there, without Mark and Kim both.

Senator Robert Torricelli, thank you for helping us and for speaking out for our black bears!

Senator Robert Torricelli, thank you for helping us and for speaking out for our black bears!

Public support for a frightened bear cub crying for his mother was overwhelming. Everyone I spoke with said they would have released the cub, too.

People were also shocked that I was going to jail. To our stunned surprise, Senator Robert Torricelli heroically swooped in, paid our fines, AND asked Governor Murphy to pardon us. (which Murphy never did). And over 200,000 people signed a petition asking for me not to go to jail.

In the end, thanks to Bear Group attorney, Doris Lin, the judge threw out my jail time and greatly reduced our fines.

The courtroom cheered. Someone shouted out “I LOVE YOU!” to the judge. But most importantly, we knew the cub was with his mother.

I CAN’T TELL ANYONE TO BREAK A LAW. But I can tell you…if you see someone or something who needs help…if you can, help him. It will work out right in the end. It always does.

Bear Group members after we won our appeal. Mark and Kim, front row. Thank you Doris Lin, our attorney, and Angi Metler, Director, Animal Protection League.

Bear Group members after we won our appeal. Mark and Kim, front row. Thank you Doris Lin, our attorney, and Angi Metler, Director, Animal Protection League.

*CAUTION: What we did that night, we did as a GROUP…and with a black bear. Black bears are flight animals. They usually run when afraid, and they don’t aggressively defend their cubs the way other bear species do. Do not do things like this alone. And always treat ALL wild animals – including black bears – with respect and at a distance. Never approach or try to feed a bear.

That time I caught a bear cub falling out of a tree

The two orphan cubs rescued by the Bear Group, all grown up at the rehabbers.

The two orphan cubs rescued by the Bear Group, all grown up at the rehabbers.

Yes, these are the kinds of things that can happen to you when you get involved with these New Jersey bear people. You know the ones. They'll convince you to go out on a midnight hike in subzero weather, or invite you skinny dipping in some secret lake. Or enlist you to help find two missing bear cubs...

(And while I really want to tell you about being arrested for helping to free a bear from a Fish & Wildlife trap, I can't do that till after my court date! So...back to the old story of the missing cubs.)

When Lynda Smith ran the BEAR Group years ago, the Division of Fish & Wildlife had been coming to Vernon, killing mother bears and leaving the cubs to fend for themselves. When she heard that there were two orphans running around Highland Lakes, she organized a search party. The media was notified of our plan and DFW was put on notice: we would find the cubs, and they would bring them to a wildlife rehabber.

All morning we knocked on doors. Reports of "They were in my backyard last night!" and "Hey I just saw them this morning!" were encouraging, yet hours later we still hadn't found them. We were about to call it a day when one of our guys raced up to us on his motorcycle, and before he could yell "I JUST saw them run across Canistear toward the lake!", we were running en masse to Lake Wanda.

Bears love lakes and marshy areas. We followed the water's edge as close as we could, given the surrounding houses. Lynda was the first to spot them. According to plan, the cubs did what their mother taught them, and as we closed in, they climbed the nearest tree to hide till dangerd passes.

Each cub climbed a different tree. And so we split into two groups, guarding them. I called DFW and told them to come and help us. An hour later when no one arrived, we called again. And again. Was DFW standing us up? After what seemed like forever, someone arrived, but it wasn't DFW. It was the Vernon Police. 

I was getting kind of nervous. Seriously, the police, why? Not counting that one time I got in trouble for driving on the suspended list, I had never been arrested before...not with these folks. I was afraid the cops would try to make us leave. But we couldn't leave the cubs! What would happen to them? And to us? (Did I need bail money??) Then I heard someone say that                the police were also calling DFW and telling them to get down! Apparently our rescue mission had turned into a "situation." People were lining up on the side of Canistear Road to watch. An accident could happen. A tired bear cub could fall out of the tree and land on someone's head. And the DFW, never thinking in a million years we'd find these cubs, and not too happy with us, was now MIA.

Fast forward 5 hours later, a DFW officer reluctantly arrives to help this ragtag bunch of animal rights activists. He circles the tree with a net and about 10 of us each take a piece in our hands. I watch him raise a tranquilizer gun and fire it at the frightened cub, over 20 feet up in the tree. To our dismay, when it hits him, he climbs even higher. I am beginning to panic. I have a gym class flashbacks when I'm in the field praying, "God, please don't let the ball come toward me..." I watch the cub and he's sitting very still. He begins to lean backward. The DFW officer shouts, "He's falling THAT way." Away from me. And then, not unlike when someone realizes they have fallen asleep in an inappropriate place, the cub startles himself back awake. And he falls...directly...toward...ME. I hear the officer yell "No, he's coming THIS WAY!"

He fell in slow motion. I saw his furry little head catch the sunlight on the way down, as he did a graceful somersalt. I reached out and I braced myself as hard as I could and with a giant WHUMP he landed directly into my awaiting arms, like you'd catch a baby someone just dropped out of a burning building. He was only the size of a dog, but I could only hold him for about two seconds before sinking to my knees under his weight. I held him there in my lap as everyone fawned over him.

For bear #2, it was Sussex Electric to the rescue. She had climbed so high they needed a cherry picker to pluck her out of the tree. Now both cubs were in the truck and on their way to a wildlife rehabber. People were crying. I remember Lynda following DFW in her little red sports car, to make sure they actually got to rehab and not dumped in the woods.

Months later, we received this photo of the two cubs playing in a tub. I don't know which bear is which. Did you know... a bear can live to be 30 years old? But where they are hunted, they usually only make it to about four. I think of him. I wonder if he's safe, and if he made it through the hunts after their release. I hope so.

Why I Got Arrested for the Bears

I sent this letter to the newspapers and I hope they print it.


Why I Blocked a Bear Hunter's Truck and Got Arrested

When I was a kid, the teachers used to tell us that if we did something bad, it would go on our permanent record. I don't subscribe to that way of thought.

On the first day of the 2017 black bear trophy hunt, I sat down in the road in front of a bear hunter's truck, blocking him in and preventing him from leaving the bear weigh station with his kill. I did this to call attention to the depraved cruelty that this hunt is. But I also did it for the 120-pound cub who paid the price for this trophy hunt. That bear had every right to live his life as Nature intended; eating sweet wild berries, breathing fresh air, and enjoying everything that's beautiful in our forests. Instead, his life was snuffed out, his broken body thrown into the back of a dirty truck like a piece of garbage. And for every second I sat in the road, was a second that hunter didn't get to take his trophy home. And in those seconds my friends and fellow BEAR Group members got to voice their outrage. And they also had the chance pay homage to that little bear, a Prince of the Forest who deserved better than the fate he suffered at the hands of a man who thinks that killing an animal is all in good fun.

Cathy McCartney

Someone told me to remove the sound here, because people were really upset and there was a little swearing. But really, is the f-bomb really worse than a “sportsman” killing a yearling bearcub with an arrow?

Below are my friends Dani and Cheryl, a few days later…

What if You Found an Animal in Need... And He Was a Bear?

Some of the best stories are the ones we can never tell. This one was kept secret for nearly a decade from the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife. Even now, some of the details have been blurred to protect the innocent. But now that this bear – and even some of the activists – have long moved on, I can share it with you.

Do you recall Aesop’s fable of Androcles and the Lion? Androcles was terrified when he came upon a lion. But when the lion showed him his swollen paw, pierced by a thorn, the boy's fear turned to pity. Androcles reached over...and removed the thorn. Later, the lion paid him back tenfold when Androcles was thrown into the arena. The mighty cat who burst through the doors didn't tear the boy to shreds, but instead licked his friend's hand, forever grateful.
by Cathy McCartney
by Cathy McCartney

IM PRETTY SURE THAT HERE IN BEAR COUNTRY, AESOP WOULD HAVE HAD A LOT TO WRITE ABOUT. Of course, he would have written that the source of pain was not a thorn, but a wire snare trap. 

A snare trap is a wire noose that springs shut around an animal’s limb when he steps into it, and then tightens. As he struggles to free himself, he can sustain great injuries. Webster defines snare as “to catch by trickery”, because the animal is lured to his demise with food. So by definition, it’s a sinister device. These snares, among other traps, are in use by NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife. 

One autumn day, some of our bear country people learned more about these snares than they wanted to, when they heard the bellows of an animal coming from the nearby woods. 

Following the sound down the trail, they found him, trapped. The big bear didn’t know that pulling against the wire would only hurt more. So he pulled harder, unable to understand why this monster wouldn’t let go.

Panicking, he wrapped and unwrapped himself around the tree. He was bawling, and climbing up and down the tree, trying to escape.

It was clear something needed to be done before he really hurt himself.

But we all know what can happen when even the gentlest family dog is in pain. My dog once got his leg caught in the rungs of a dining chair. And he bit the person trying get him loose, hard enough to draw blood. What would it take to safely free a 400-pound bear in a state of panic? 

Angi Metler, our director and mentor, addressing the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife.

Angi Metler, our director and mentor, addressing the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife.

The answer came in the form of bolt cutters…and Angi Metler

By day, Angi was a med tech, but her “real” job is the director of the BEAR Group. A longtime practitioner of Ahimsa (non-violence), her kindness toward living things is not to be mistaken for weakness. At protests, she’s the one in the stylish purple coat and fancy pleather boots. But she’s also the one carrying the bullhorn. I once saw a video where a hunter pointed his shotgun at her and threatened to shoot, and Angi didn’t even flinch.

As the story was told to me, the bear was really flipping out, even biting off pieces of the tree in panic.

Let me add, that when the NJ DFW traps bears, they tranquilize them. And considering the many times they’ve shot and killed these animals, we know that our state “biologists” are also armed. Of course, Angi wasn’t armed. No one there was.

She approached him, she admitted later, “Nervously.” She had to get close enough to completely remove the snare. Pagan prayers rose up through the treetops. And then when Angi was just about a foot away from him, he made a sudden and unanticipated move… In his pain and terror, the big bear turned… and hid his face.

Angi, with her velvet glove, reached over and cut the wire. 

>> Sign the petition to ban snare traps 

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You’re a Rebel Lunch for the Bears

Bill Crain

Bill Crain

I know people were disappointed they couldn't visit Bill Crain in jail for his 6th peaceful civil disobedience arrest against the bear hunt. But now you’ve got another chance to say hi. (No, he's not in jail again.) He’ll be at Veggie Heaven. Because we’re having a Rebel Lunch for him...and for everyone else who got into trouble with the law last year for the bears.

WHERE: Veggie Heaven, Teaneck
WHEN: Sunday, May 7th @ 1pm 

Complimentary "get out of Jail Free" Card for all who attend :)

Complimentary "get out of Jail Free" Card for all who attend :)

EVERYONE WHO ATTENDS will get their very own, “Get Out of Jail Free” card that I personally designed. Some of us have tested them out though and apparently they don’t work. Sorry about that.

Anyway, you may not know this but Bill is the reason some of us first got arrested in Wawayanda State Park back in 2005. I remember watching this guy march out of the designated free speech zone, toward the park rangers and the weigh station with that now famous sign, “Mother Nature Is Crying”. And as we watched the cops drive him away we were inspired to join him in solidarity.

Bill really helped throw us into that deeper ocean of dissent. I’m glad he did because sometimes peaceful civil disobedience is the only way to call out an injustice. 

It was the bow hunt that made me cross the line again in 2016. But Bill (and Angi Metler) set the precedent. They truly act in the spirit of Gandhi and we’re lucky to have them both as mentors.

So please come out and say hi on May 7th....your support will help defray legal costs and re-energize us for 2017. This is for Sue and Ali, too. Let’s help boost their moral after all their legal battles this year.

And Eleanor — there’s no better friend than one who is handcuffed to the same police bench as you, even though I was counting on you to be my ride back from the station.

Me being arrested by the DEP at the Bear Check-in station. Bill Was arrested earlier that morning, and Eleanor shortly after.

Me being arrested by the DEP at the Bear Check-in station. Bill Was arrested earlier that morning, and Eleanor shortly after.





The Arc of the Moral Universe...and How We’re Bending It

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
— Martin Luther King


Change takes time. But it's still happening, even if we can't see it.

I like  Saturday Night Live's  Chris christie so much more than the real thing.

I like Saturday Night Live's Chris christie so much more than the real thing.

SOMETIMES I FEEL SORRY for any BEAR Group people who joined us during the Christie regime. They didn’t get to see the awesome things we did before our giant parasite of a governor latched his huge pinchers into New Jersey. Like how our attorney Doris Lin got the hunt stopped in court... for three straight years. Or the day TEN of us were arrested for civil disobedience and direct action. And how we influenced not one, but THREE administrations to stop the hunts.

Those were the days. But don’t be fooled into thinking this giant gubernatorial bloodsucker hurt us in any way.

We are still bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice for black bears. It's just that most change takes time. (think Gandhi, MLK, the Suffragettes) And sometimes we have setbacks. But change still comes, even if it's hard to see.

Remember how 92.4% of the public comments to the DEP were AGAINST the hunt? That was because of us. And when the DEP tried to fudge those numbers, we went to Trenton and counted every single comment and set the record straight.

The public outcry about Pedals? Our advocacy played a huge role. We not only helped share his message and raise donations, but I believe that the existing groundswell of support for bears – that we created – helped tremendously.

IT WAS CHRISTIE who blocked the moral bridge. Were he a statesmen like governors before him, he would have stopped the hunts. Instead, his bullies in the DEP showed their true colors, allowing Pedals to be killed by a bow hunter.

But there are consequences for everything, and so the arc bends. Thanks to our advocacy, our director Angi Metler, and to our champion, Senator Lesniak, we now have a black bear protection bill. And it's named for Pedals.

PEDALS’ LAW, when passed, will ban bear hunting for 5 years, while non-lethal bear management is implemented. (I’m talking real management. Not the fake kind that the DEP spits out.) That means bear-resistant containers in bear country, and a ban on baiting by hunters. We’ll have a true bearsmart New Jersey. And we'll be well on our way to banning the hunt.

This is how the arc bends. Slowly, but towards justice.

Thank you, Senator Lesniak!

Thank you, Senator Lesniak!

BTW, have you noticed the background pic on the Senator Lesniak's Pedals' Law page? Does it look familiar? It should :) That’s us at the weigh station, standing up to the DEP and laying the groundwork for change. Bending the arc.

The hunt is going on now. To quote our director, Angi Metler, please be good to yourselves. Please click here to follow the BEAR Group on Facebook for action alerts. To make a tax-deductible donation to help save bears, please click here.
Original artwork by DigitDreams.

Our Sacred Relationship with Bear — The Bear Goddess in Pre-Christian Europe

Dea Artio, the bear goddess, Berne History Museum, Switzerland.

Dea Artio, the bear goddess, Berne History Museum, Switzerland.

by Cathy McCartney
by Cathy McCartney

HAVE YOU EVER FELT that the bear has entered your psyche – and you don’t understand why? Maybe you find yourself dreaming of bears and that dream affects you well into the waking hours. Or have you ever watched a bear and felt the presence of the Divine? You wouldn’t be the first person to feel this way. Archeological evidence reveals that the bear may be the oldest European deity, and that bear worship (arctolatry) dates as far back as the paleolithic period).[1]

THE BEAR GODDESS ARTIO is seated before a large bear who seems to have just emerged from the woods. She holds a basket of fruit before the bear, who stands patiently with his mouth open...

This statue (above), discovered in Berne, Switzerland, and another found in France, are the strongest evidence of the worship of the Celtic-Germanic Bear Goddess, whose patron animal was the bear. My New Jersey friends will notice immediately that while so many times we see bears depicted as ferocious, this bear gazes into Artio’s eyes as he waits, dog-like in posture, for the fruit. Engraved into the base of the statue is: “Deae Artioni” or, “To the Goddess Artio”. 

Artio, (AR-tee-oh) also known as Dea Artio and Andarta, gets her name from the Gaelic word “art”, meaning “bear.” The Swiss city of Berne, where one stature was found also means “bear.” So if your name is Bernard, Art, Arthur, McCartan, or any variation, your name also comes from the word “bear.”

It’s commonly held that Artio is a goddess of the Forest and of Wild Things, particularly bears. Her worship appeared in western Europe in 450 BC with the migration of Celtic tribes.[2] Unlike the goddess Diana, who is depicted with her bow, Artio holds no weapon. Instead, the Bear Goddess holds an offering, and is therefore associated with abundance. She is also likely a Motherly provider and a strong protector, two traits attributed to bears. Artio is considered a zoomorphic goddess, meaning that she can take the form of an animal, in this case, a bear.[3] Given such, it’s speculated that the bear in her tribute statue is actually the goddess, and the woman is her servant.[4] 

Sandstone Bear figures, Armagh, Ireland.

Sandstone Bear figures, Armagh, Ireland.

Sandstone figures of bears dating to pre-5th c. BC, have also been unearthed in Ireland, during the rebuilding of the Armagh Cathedral in 1840.[5] It’s well-known that the Church often built directly upon pagan temples, as a means of converting the non-Christians.

But our spiritual connection to bears may go back much further than we can imagine. A 70,000 yr-old grave discovered in Southern France tells the story of possible bear worship. There the skeleton of a neanderthal lies on a bear skin, surrounded by stones and the bones of a bear, carefully and systematically arranged.[6] A bear skull sits on an altar, overlooking the remains of someone that the tribe considered of great importance.

The American mythologist Joseph Campbell theorized that Artio’s roots lie with those ancient bear cults. He also ties her to the heavens through the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor – the Great Bear and the Little Bear. Arcturus, the brightest start in proximity to the Bear constellations, is Greek for “Guardian of the Bears”[2] .

Reverence for bears survives into modern times. Native Americans stories talk about a time when people and animals could shape-shift, speak to each other, and even marry.[8]  This animal, with his god-like strength and ability to walk upright like a human, is also known as a healer, instinctively knowing which plants to eat when sick.

They also symbolize rebirth, emerging from the earth every spring after a deathlike hibernation.

Artio, by  Judith Shaw

Artio, by Judith Shaw

Modern-day pagans acknowledge the Bear Goddess. Says Judith Shaw, an artist whose paintings center on female deities, “When Artio calls your name, know that you are protected.”[2]

And while we have a historical connection to bears what draws us here today to the movement in New Jersey to protect them? Is it solely for animal welfare reasons, or does it go deeper than that? Do we share the same psychological connection to bears that was once carried by ancient people? 

IT SEEMS THAT THE BEAR has captured not only our hearts, but the deepest forest of our minds. We may fight for their protection on moral grounds and we may be charmed by their sentient nature, but the bears’ great size and massive strength still inspires awe. They are the forest gods. They are the bridge to a time when this place we call New Jersey, was wholly wild. And they fill a void in our spirit.


Judith Shaw's Goddess paintings can be seen at:

[4] Sjoestedt, M (1949). Celtic Gods and Heroes


Why I got a hunting license...And 3 things I learned from it

My compound bow and the State's Hunter Education Guide.

My compound bow and the State's Hunter Education Guide.

No one loves trophy hunters more than the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

So why am I shocked at their tactics when we don’t fall in line? Last year they skewed the public comment totals on the Bear “Management” Policy, hiding 92.4% of the respondents who oppose bear hunting.

And every year, DEP police arrest Dr. Bill Crain, psychology professor and author –for walking down a public road. Yes, the same road where the bear check-in station is, where trophy hunters go to bring the dead bears and slap each other on the backs, while hunt protesters are confined to a free-speech zone, and Bill is led away in handcuffs.

So what do we need to do to get into the Boys’ Club? 

During the last hunt, the DEP threatened to issue Hunter Harassment summonses to any of us in the woods who walked off the trail. Later I was shocked when another park ranger hiked down just to tell us he’d give ALL of us summonses if he got “one more call” from a hunter. Among the terrified hunter’s complaints? He said we were “looking at him.” 

The DEP’s bias toward toward their hunters was clear. And I decided I would get a hunting license.

Three months later, I passed the NJ Hunter Ed test for shotgun and bow.

And I learned 3 things that the DEP doesn’t want non-hunters to know – information we can use to strengthen the argument against bear hunting – especially bow hunting.

Bow hunting’s staggering 54% wounding rate

Studies show that half of the animals shot by bow hunters, are never found. For each animal killed, another runs off to die a slow death, days or even weeks later.

Bow hunters know the odds. Ted Nugent says, “Killing a deer with a bow and arrow is borderline impossible because the animals are so wary and the bow and arrow is such a short-range weapon.”

Even olympic archers don’t always hit a bullseye, an inanimate target with no foliage to deflect the arrow. Aside from trapping, bow hunting is the cruelest means of killing for fun. (source:

The “clean, quick kill” is a myth

Sportsmen may deny the cruelty of their past-time. But the harsh reality of what they do is explained by the DEP in black and white. On page 18 of the New Jersey Hunter Education Guide, hunters are instructed to wait anywhere from 20 minutes to 8 HOURS before tracking a wounded animal, based on where the animal is shot:

Is there such thing as a “good” shot? The DEP calls a shot to the vital area (heart, lungs, or liver) a “well-placed shot”. But this doesn't mean the death is quick or painless. An animal shot in the heart will die in under 10 seconds, but is this humane? And there is no clear answer for how long it takes to die based on other shot placements. An animal shot through one or both lungs will bleed out or suffocate. An animal shot in the liver could struggle for up to an hour. Seconds, minutes, or an hour may seem quick to the DEP, but it's a long time to a living creature who is bleeding and suffocating.

For the hunter who makes a “poorly-placed shot” to a non-vital area (ex: stomach) and who waits 6 to 8 hours before tracking: I predict a lot of hunters will run out of daylight. And while he’s at the bar that night with his buddies, somewhere an animal is in agony. Remember that Cecil the lion suffered for 40 hours with an arrow in him, before being killed by a bullet. 

FYI...they wait this long so they don’t drive an animal out of range. But the point here is that this “oath” of a quick, clean kill is a sham. Even the animal shot in the heart will feel pain and fear. There’s nothing clean about animal suffering.

A stick in the eye. Ultimate act of cruelty.

In the state’s field training, the instructor told us how to check if the animal is dead; we are to find a stick, and stick the animal in the eye. If there’s a reflex, the animal is then shot. This is to avoid getting a hoof or a paw to the face, though every trophy hunter I know deserves it.

The quick, clean kill isn't worth the paper it's written on, literally. Contemporary sports hunting is an ugly, messy, and inhumane business that mentally healthy people want no part of. Click here to download a pdf of Page 18 to read this information for yourself.

They’re afraid of what you think, and what you’ll say

When I took the Hunter Ed class, they stressed: Hunting is a privilege, not a right.

They’re very concerned about their image and what the non-hunting public thinks of them. They say things like:
     “Don’t display games animals or firearms in a careless manner.”
     “Never drape your game on top of your vehicle. This is offensive to the general public.”

There’s even a part in the Hunter Ed DVD that shows a hunter hiding a dead bird inside his jacket, so a passerby can’t see it. But trust me, they don’t care if they offend us. They already know that killing for fun is offensive. All they’re afraid of is a public backlash. Remember that the DFW makes their money by selling the hunts. Hunting is a dying industry and bears are big business for them.

How you can help

Since 2000, three New Jersey governors have stopped 8 bear hunts because of public outcry. The DFW is afraid this will happen again. It will! But only if you keep speaking out. Please click here to join or donate to the BEAR Group, the only group in the state that focuses solely on getting these hunts permanently banned.

More Dead Bear Parts Left By Hunter

Brick-sized strip of a bear's flesh, left for us out of spite by a trophy hunter. Dec 2015.

Brick-sized strip of a bear's flesh, left for us out of spite by a trophy hunter. Dec 2015.

It’s been a year since a hunter left a bear’s severed paw at my home. DNA testing on the paw has yet to reveal the bear’s “legal” killer, making it very likely he was poached during or shortly after the 2014 hunt.

Recently during the 2015 hunt, a similar incident happened to our Take Back Our Woods trail walkers. And again, the Division of Fish & Wildlife was reluctant to investigate, making it crystal clear to me that the DFW has no intention of solving either case. I also suspect they know which one of their “sportsmen” did it, and are keeping quiet – because it would be bad PR for themand for the trophy hunts they so aggressively promote.

Bear's paw left at my home by a hunter. The DEP has done nothing. Dec 2014.

Bear paw left at my home by a hunter. Dec 2014.

Bear paw left at my home by a hunter. Dec 2014.

Everyone knows it’s a threat to receive dead animal parts. But when I spoke with the DFW officer on the 2014 paw case, he said he’d “never heard of me,” and so it wasn’t a real threat. Another time we spoke, he was brusk. I felt he was annoyed that he had to speak with me at all.

The day the paw was found, I made a video. Once in the hands of the DEP, I feared how easily the paw could disappear. And that’s essentially what happened. I never got any real sense from the DEP that the incident was being taken seriously, either a threat or as a poaching crime, and as far as I know, we may never hear more about it.


2015. A Second Poaching in Our Park, and More Bear Parts

Before dawn on Day Five of the 2015 bear hunt, we discovered the remains (internal organs) of a small bear lying right on the same trail we had patrolled all week. Within the hour, we traced backwards the events leading up to her killing:

Shotgun Shell we found at kill site.

Shotgun Shell we found at kill site.

We followed the blood trail backwards, from the bear’s remains to the hunter’s blind, (a hiding place made of broken branches). There we found the blood-soaked depression where the small bear died – and a shotgun shell. (Conservation officers later confirmed our findings. She was indeed killed in the woods by the blind, then carried the short distance to the trail where the hunter sliced her open and removed her insides.) Ali examined her remains – her little stomach was filled with seeds and berries. Later, April and I followed the hunter’s tracks and drag marks back out of the park, where we found another piece of the bear, cleanly cut, and left exactly where our volunteers are known to rest. We later learned that a resident saw trucks leaving the park at 9:30pm the night before. 

The bear's remains are significant for 3 reasons:

1. Evidence points to an illegal killing. Our trail walkers patrolled the exact area, from pre-dawn to dark the day before – no nearby shots were heard and no hunters were seen in that immediate area. We believe the bear was killed illegally, after hours, when we would not be there to witness it.

2. An extreme act of intimidation. The guts – and the other piece of the bear – were left in two key locations where hunters had seen us. I believe the bear parts were left there deliberately for us, to spite and to intimidate us.

3. Bear protection advocates are often targeted by hunters – and marginalized by authorities. When I spoke with DFW that morning to report a poaching, I was told it could not be considered a poaching. I calmly explained the details, and I said we would sign statements saying that the trail was clear the night before, but to no avail. I believe that had a hunter expressed concern that a bear was poached, the DFW/DEP would have taken them seriously. (The DFW only agreed to send officers after the BEAR Group Director, Angi Metler contacted the media.)

Final Thoughts
In December 2014, when I first saw the paw on the ground, I felt a reverence toward it that was stronger than my revulsion of the hunter who left it there. The paw, like the bear it belongs to, is precious. Holding his paw was shocking, but made me feel connected to the bears’ spirit. When I left his paw with the police, I felt like I was abandoning him. I promised him I would never forget him. I know that everyone feels the same toward the young bear poached this year in Wawayanda and for all of those taken from us. The power of Life is stronger than the power of Death.

Special thanks to: Bill C., Mike D., Eleanor H., Jim H., Flo I., Ali K., Sue K., Igor K., Shari M., Angi M., Jean M., Carol R., April S., and Dani V.

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A Gift of the Birds

The feather that Sue predicted I would find, with "Take Back Our Woods" trailwalkers.

The feather that Sue predicted I would find, with "Take Back Our Woods" trailwalkers.

"Take Back Our Woods" trailwalkers walked the trails of Wawayanda for ten days during the black bear trophy hunt, from dawn to dark, as a form of protest and in hope of saving bears from being shot. This is some of our story.

When the Forest Sends Us Signs

I was walking down the trail during the hunt, when I saw the bright yellow feather. I had never seen one like this and right away I picked it up. When I reached the others at the trail head, I looked for my friend Sue. It was last year that she and I had gone looking for a bear trap – just hours after my father passed away – and at his deathbed I had asked him for a blue jay feather.

Sue and I never found the trap, but as I was leaving her house, I looked down and there it was – a blue jay feather – a sign that my father was watching over me.

Today on the trail, I showed Sue this new yellow feather...and I was surprised when she said, “I can’t believe you found that feather!” I asked her why and she told me this story: She was walking up the trail with a ranger the day before, and they came upon this same yellow feather. He picked it up but then dropped it back on the ground. She asked him why he did that, and he said “it’s illegal,” but that she could pick it up if she wanted. So Sue went back, but couldn’t find the yellow feather, and she told him, “Don’t worry, my friend Cathy will find it.”

And sure enough, I did! Sue’s prediction came full circle. I showed everyone the yellow feather and then told them the story of my father’s blue jay feather. We all agreed there’s something magical about birds, both as signs of protection, and that we are being watched over.

When we are in need, the Forest will send us signs. And on this day, we were in need.

The Bear Pendant ARlene sent to me.

The Bear Pendant ARlene sent to me.

WHEN THE BEARS FIRST BROUGHT ME HERE YEARS AGO, I met my friend Arlene. Arlene taught me a lot about bears, and I always say that she’s the reason I’ve never been lost in the woods. Arlene had a necklace with a bear paw I’d always admired. Once she told me that as she was driving past the reservoir, a bald eagle flew right past her car. This is the sort of story Arlene, resident flower child, would casually tell. When the hunt began, I received a package. I was shocked to see that it was her own bear pendant. I put the pendant on and did not take it off.

The rest of the hunt was an exhausting blur; ten days of hiking, worrying about the bears, being harassed by hunters, threatened by police – and worst of all – facing our own emotions. Throughout it all, we noticed one thing: We were followed by ravens.

Ravens, bringers of magic.

In Native American lore, Ravens are the secret-keepers, shapeshifters and healers. In Europe, symbols of wisdom and prophecy. To the Irish Celts, the Raven was a symbol of the Goddess Morrigan, protector of warriors. In Norse mythology, two ravens served the god, Odin. Now to us, they are the Watchers of the Woods, and we were both honored and comforted by their hollow and other-worldly calls...

My dad in his army days. He loved birds, and he loved our bears. He was proud of all of us.

My dad in his army days. He loved birds, and he loved our bears. He was proud of all of us.

I COUNTED THE DAYS OF THE HUNT till there was just one day left. Why is it, when an ordeal is coming to an end, the final moments feel the most ominous? The night before the final day, I asked my father to help us keep our remaining bears safe.

Now, walking down the trail before dawn on the last day, I felt afraid for all of our animals. But every so often, I felt I could see my father walking ahead of me. He was young, and wearing his army uniform. He always loved birds and his eyes were blue, like the blue jay. My father’s young, alive self waved to me, and I felt a calm come over the trail. But all day, I counted the hours. Then suddenly, 10 days of shooting was over, and we could go home and rest.

Or so we thought.

Sunday morning didnt bring rest, it brought chaos. The story broke about the Rockaway Boy Scout master who went into a cave that morning, only to be pulled inside and trapped by a hibernating bear. She eventually released him, but Monday’s drive back to work was surreal. My thoughts were still in the woods. I was wearing Arlene’s bear pendant and thinking about the fate of the Rockaway bear as I passed the reservoir. And that was when I saw the huge bird. It wasn’t until I saw his white head as he soared past that I realized exactly Who He was – the bald eagle, one last sign from the Forest for our beloved bears.

smudging the trail.

smudging the trail.

Epilogue ~ A week after the hunt was over, I walked the trail again with some friends. This time we weren’t there to take it back from the bear hunters, but rather from the shadow hanging over it. We smudged the trail, relieving it of the evil that came to us in the form of men with shotguns just a week before.

Walking back, I felt uplifted, as though I were floating. I left an apple as an offering to the bears who were taken from us. And I thought of feathers spiraling slowly out of the sky and landing at our feet.

IF WE LISTEN, the Ravens will share their secrets. I believe a sign for one of us is meant for all, because we are all connected through the spirits of the bears and by our desire to protect them. There are survivors somewhere deep in the woods of New Jersey, and their presence makes us stronger. Life magic is stronger than death magic. The bears are the great kings and queens of our Forests, and we are vowed to protect them, always.

This post is dedicated to everyone who loves our bears. We are all connected.
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Taking Back the Woods

Why we’ll be walking the trails again
during the week of the New Jersey bear hunt

WHEN THE BEAR HUNTS FIRST BEGAN IN 2003, MANY OF US WENT INTO THE WOODS OF WAWAYANDA. — No one asked us to go and no one really planned it. But we took it upon ourselves to walk the trails anyway. We all had our reasons. We hoped to somehow keep the hunters at bay. We wanted to keep them away from Sam, our beloved mascot bear. And we wanted, literally, to stand our ground. And so for days, we hiked the trails, stomping out tracks in the snow, and sealing our resolve. The woods were cold but the grief felt everytime shots were heard was worse. Despite it all, I know we wouldn’t have been anywhere else.

But then there were the arrests of 2005. An undercover cop teamed up with a hunter, probably a friend of his—and started an argument with some of our people, who were trying to save a bear from being shot. The hunter implied that our people could be armed and he pointed his shotgun at them. But instead of protecting our activists, the officer arrested Angi, Terry, Ali, and Janet. They were, in fact armed—but with a video camera.

A few days later we had our protest at the Wawayanda weigh station, which has now since been removed. There six more people—Dave, Lynda, Bill, Eleanor, Kristin, and myself—stepped over the flimsy orange snow fencing barricade set up by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and sat down on the ground. We were also armed—this time with posters and magic markers. With only 15 more minutes left of the protest—we too, were arrested.

At our trial, a cop from the NJDEP perjured himself, by saying that we “were violent”. I remember the panic I felt listening to him calmly tell this to the judge. Luckilly, we had video evidence that showed otherwise. After the judge saw our video, he realized that we were NOT violent. I remember him saying something about us being “nice” people but that we didn’t listen to the police. Our attorney argued that this was a freedom of speech issue and that our constitutional rights were violated. And then judge said that his courtroom wasn’t the place “to discuss the constitution.” And during Angi's trial, the judge did not allow into evidence the video of the hunter pointing his gun at them. In the end, we were all found guilty; the protestors of obstruction, and the trail walkers were found guilty of hunter harassment. We were each fined $500.

We realized how how unlikely it would be for any of us to ever get a fair trial in Sussex County. In the hunts that followed, there were always one or two people, Sue, Jean, who did walk the trails. But for the most part, we were dissuaded from going into the woods that we had not too long ago called our own.

Why am I telling you all this? Because as advocates for black bear protection, it’s part of our movement's history. And knowing our history makes all of us stronger.

But I’m also telling you this because things are different now...

After 15 years of educating the public, protesting, letter-writing, and getting over 25% of the New Jersey legislature to ask for humane bear management—the NJDEP lied about the tremendous support we have for bear protection—and the Christie administration ignored us, instead pandering to the hunter minority. And instead of enacting legitimate bear management, which includes proper garbage control and public education...the commissioner has enacted an additional 7 years of black bear trophy hunting; adding bow and arrow, allowing hunters shoot more that one bear, expanding the hunt zone, and extending the hunt time.

Dave, a long-time member (and 2005 arrestee) advocated going back into the woods. Others agreed. For our friends who will hold vigil at the weigh station next week; we know it’s not easy to see the hunters haul in the bodies of dead bears. I commend you...we all do. Bearing witness is a brave and powerful gesture, and we need you to be there. But some of us need to go back into the woods now. We think it’s time.

True, there won’t be many of us, but there will be enough. This is our form of protest, and we believe that our presence may save some bears from being shot. We’re aware that we may be targeted by the police or hunters. But the woods are ours, too, and we’ll be there with our bears till they stop shooting.

*** If we know you, and you’d like to walk with us, please write to me at:

New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife Unveils New Logo

The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) proudly unveiled their new logo on Friday in front of a small group of people who enjoy killing stuff. The event took place at the Pequest Trout Hatchery.

           Old, less accurate Fish & Wildlife logo

           Old, less accurate Fish & Wildlife logo

Director Dave Chanda, in a powerpoint presentation, explained how the new logo is similar to the old one, but the new logo portrays wildlife — with regard to the DFW's role in hunting — more appropriately.

Said Chanda, "I really like the new logo. In the older, way less accurate logo, the animals seem calm, enjoying their natural surroundings...almost happy. But in this new version, these animals are more appropriately terrified."

the most recent picture I could find of Larry Herrighty. ©NJ DFW.

the most recent picture
I could find of Larry Herrighty. ©NJ DFW.

Said Larry Herrighty, who's been with the DFW since the 1890s, "The new logo really conveys what this agency is all about. And the bullets holes going through the big "NJ"'s dead-on."

Hunters in attendance also had good things to say. "I never really got why there was an eagle in the old logo," said one, "Because the one time I shot an eagle, I caught hell for it."

Anti-hunters who showed up to protest the unveiling didn't know what to say. 

"This might be the first time we actually agree with the Division...on anything," said one animal protection advocate, stunned. Turning to walk away, she added, "Ever."

Have you ever stepped on a bear?

I'VE NEVER STEPPED ON A BEAR. HAVE YOU? I just had to ask, considering the two separate and bizarre incidents involving two New Jersey hunters this month.

The first is from Hunterdon County. A deer hunter in his tree stand killed a cub – allegedly for trying to climb the tree. Too bad the hunter didn't learn about bears in Louisiana, where the Louisiana Black Bear is listed as "threatened." Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, to kill a bear there could mean a $50,000 fine and 6 months in jail. The photo below is from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries website, with THIS warning to HUNTERS:

"Don't confuse curiosity with aggression. Bears are extremely curious. Hunters need to remember that they are often concealed and bears don't see very well. In situations like this, it is likely that the bear doesn't know it is a human up in the tree. Use pepper spray to deter curious bears."

That's right - PEPPER SPRAY! But here in New Jersey, the authorities issued NO SUMMONS for shooting this bear out-of-season. It's no secret that the Division of Fish & Kill Wildlife (DFW) is using the Darsh Patel tragedy as a springboard to expand hunting. But now it seems they're also giving hunters the green light to kill bears – so long as the hunter "feels threatened." 

According to the minutes of the October Fish & Shame Council, "more incidents with bears will occur because people (hunters!) are on edge."

The minutes go on to repeat that "more incidents are expected" and that they will be "as reasonable as possible" in dealing them, because "not everyone possesses information on bear behavior." I thought ignorance of the law was no excuse! Are hunter-on-bear incidents are being encouraged  as a new way for DFW to feign the need for more hunting?

The 2nd incident occurred – as promised – soon after the Hunterdon incident. A hunter-cop killed a mother bear in Allamuchy State Park. He claims she bit him after he "accidentally STEPPED ON HER." In the melee, 2 one-week-old cubs were crushed to death.

I'M NOT BUYING IT. Not because he's a hunter – or a cop – because it's ridiculous. 

Again, no summons was issued. In the past, the unspoken rule for illegally killing a bear was "Shoot and shut-up." But now it's, "Shoot If You're Scared." By saying that more incidents are expected – and not enforcing penalties – the state is encouraging a free-for-all...and all the hunter has to do is claim that he felt threatened by a bear.

Well, we already knew they're cowards. At least they're admitting it, right?

Why Arm the Bears?


We’ve heard a lot about 2nd amendment rights from guys who enjoy shooting things. And it begs the question, "Is bear hunting really a sport if the bears can’t shoot back?" Well, fair is fair...let's ARM THE BEARS! After all, isn’t it about time they started defending themselves?

IF YOU'RE NOT FROM A PLACE CALLED 'BEAR COUNTRY,' YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHY AN ANIMAL OF THIS SIZE NEEDS DEFENDING OF ANY KIND. It's OK if you don't know better, but black bears are flight animals, like squirrels or deer. They have short claws for climbing  – which is what they do when they're afraid – which is often. My neighbor's chihuahua once treed a bear, and there's a youtube video of a cat from West Milford chasing a bear. One morning at 5am I chased a bear too, who was running through the neighbor's yard with my bear-proof trash can. He ran as soon as he saw me – in my pajamas and flip-flops – a scary sight, I'm sure.

Before I go on, let me be clear about my thoughts on trophy hunters. Anyone who kills an animal in order to pump himself up is surely lacking in other areas. But I digress… Trophy hunters kill bears under the delusion that they are heroically conquering some fierce brute. Of course, the hunter fantasy is contingent on the reality that black bears are not fierce. Black bears do not fight back, making them easy targets for any coward with a gun. Someone recently took a photo of THREE cubs shot by a single New Jersey hunting party. And one of the hunters remarked, "When the mother saw me, she ran away and didn't protect them." So there you have it. Even the myth of the mother bear defending her cubs is debunked by a hunter himself.

In addition to killing cubs, which is legal in New Jersey, hunters also kill hibernating bears. Shooting a bear in his den is NOT legal, but it's common. Many people, including myself, heard the firecrackers go off in the woods the year hunters blasted bears out of their dens for an easy thrill-kill. Let's hope the rest of us are at a safe distance when Karma comes for all of them.

While trophy hunters are the pawns pulling the trigger, the real enemies of black bears are the NJ Division of Fish & Kill Wildlife and the politicians who serve the gun and hunting lobby.

For now, I won't mention our unworthy adversary, Governor Christie. Instead, I'd like to introduce you to a much lower-level Michael Sedon, a Councilman (and hunter) from Ridgewood, NJ. When shown the picture of the aforementioned three cubs all killed by the same hunting party, his bizarre response was: "Nice! That looks like a pretty successful day of hunting to me. Younger bears taste much better than older, larger bears anyway. Congratulations!"

If Sedon finds this amusing, I wonder what he thinks of this graphic that's been circulating on Facebook. And I wonder who made it? :) I bet when he found out that The Bergen Record wrote a story about what he said, he fell right out of his treestand with laughter. Readers, if you'd like, you can write a letter to The Bergen Record ( and/or click here to view or share this graphic. Let's get the word out about how unprofessional he is, and how callous he is toward three baby animals. And if bear advocate Susan Kehoe is still planning to distribute fliers, I'll be happy to join her...and I hope you will, too.

And though our bears are sleeping now, we can't rest. From the quiet of their dens, they don't know that as you read this, the NJ Division of Fish and Kill Wildlife is plotting to expand the current trophy hunt, and allow hunters to kill more than one bear. So whether you live in Bear Country, or whether you live elsewhere in New Jersey...the bears need ALL of us to close ranks now and speak out! We are all their guardians. Click here for action we must take to protect them.

Remember, bear advocates in New Jersey have accomplished great things, including getting THREE governors to ban bear hunting while they were in office. I believe that together we'll do more great things. Together, let's stay strong in the year ahead for our bears. Because they need us.

Yours in the struggle,