700-Pound Black Bear Killed By Bow and Arrow, Setting New Record

A 700-pound black bear (Ursus americanus) is the largest of its species to have been shot with a bow and arrow, says bow hunting group the Pope and Young Club.

The killing took place on October 14, 2019, in Morris County, New Jersey, and is believed to be a world record.

According to the orgnaization, a Special Panel of Judges in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, convened by the Pope and Young Club confirmed it as the largest bow-harvested black bear in North America on February 8, 2020.

Its skull was measured at 23 5/16 inches, surpassing the previous record shot by Robert J. Shuttleworth Jr. in Mendocino County, California, on September 4th, 1993. Shuttleworth's bear skull was a fraction of an inch smaller at 23 3/16 inches.

"New Jersey, my home state, has its First-Ever World Record Animal!" said hunter Jeff Melillos, who shot the bear, the Pope and Young Club report. "Many years ago, I read an article in Outdoor Life Magazine stating that the New World Record Black Bear will most likely come from New Jersey. They were spot on, and I never doubted it for one second."

"I'm very grateful that I get to be a part of all this. Pursuing bears with bow and arrow is a passion of mine."

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NEW POPE AND YOUNG WORLD RECORD On Saturday, February 8th, the Pope and Young Club convened a Special Panel of Judges in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during the Great American Outdoors Show, for a potential P&Y World Record Black Bear. Jeff Melillos’ massive bear scored 23 5/16 and is now the largest bow-harvested black bear in North America. The bear was shot in Morris County, New Jersey, on October 14th, 2019. Measurers present at the Special Panel were (pictured L to R) Dan Lynch, of Pennsylvania, P&Y Director of Records, Eli Randall, Terry Mollett of Pennsylvania, and Timothy Walsh of New Jersey. With a final score of 23 5/16, Jeff’s bear was confirmed as the new P&Y World Record Black Bear. This bear surpasses the previous World Record shot by Robert J. Shuttleworth Jr., taken in Mendocino County, California, on September 4th, 1993, with a score of 23 3/16. "It has been an inspiring journey, to say the least,” said Jeff Melillo. “New Jersey, my home state, has its First-Ever World Record Animal! Many years ago, I read an article in Outdoor Life Magazine stating that the New World Record Black Bear will most likely come from New Jersey. They were spot on, and I never doubted it for one second. I'm very grateful that I get to be a part of all this. Pursuing bears with bow and arrow is a passion of mine. I’d also like to recognize the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife for the outstanding effort they put into the management of New Jersey Black Bears. The dedication from our biologists, technicians, and Conservation Officers, make this all possible. I'd also like to give a big thanks to United Bow Hunters of New Jersey. Their organization had a lot to do with getting a bowhunting season for New Jersey black bears. Without their efforts, I would not be writing this." You can see the life-size mount of this incredible animal at the P&Y Annual Convention in Virginia, March 26th- 28th, as part of the Bass Pro/Cabela’s Trophy Tower. The largest display of World Record, North American, bow-harvested, big-game animals ever assembled. For Convention Information, go to https://www.pope-young.org/convention/default.asp

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Last year, New Jersey's Black Bear Season ran from October 14 to 19 and December 9 to 14, and was extended for another four days between December 18 and 21 because fewer than 20 percent of tagged bears were shot. According to the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, 315 bears were killed in total, resulting in a harvesting rate of 15.3 percent.

Bear hunting is a controversial hobby. While its supporters claim it is necessary to maintain balance and reduce human-bear conflict, critics say it is cruel and indiscriminate.

"This is not about sound science or a way of managing bears, it's about politics," Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director, said of the hunts in 2010.

"There's no protection of the species," Angela De Sapio, Jersey State Sierra Club Cordinator for Endangered Species/Wildlife Issues, told Newsweek.

"The numbers are falsified or inaccurately portrayed to hold a bear hunt," she said, explaining that true population numbers have not been published since 2012. Meanwhile, bear activity numbers show that bear-related activity has declined extensively—from 3,035 reports and 970 sightings in 2010 to 818 reports and 169 sightings inn 2019.

Indiscriminate hunting means "there's no protection against shooting a female with cubs," said De Sapio.

In response to claims that hunting can be used to manage the ecosystem, De Sapio said: "There's the way that the ecosystem balances itself out with abundance and regulation. [Sustainable hunting] is used as a defence for anything."

According to the Associated Press, the hunt was reintroduced in New Jersey in 2003 when black bear populations were growing. Governor Phil Murphy promised to ban the practice during his campaign and has so far banned hunting on state lands, meaning the 2019 hunt was restricted to private lands. A petition is currently circulating, calling for the hunts to be stopped in their entirety.

It states: "Bears are, in fact, one of the natural world's most remarkable creatures; their conservation should be based on a foundation of inter-species respect, not an attitude of contempt."

According to North American Bear Center, the black bear once existed across North America from Alaska in the northwest to Florida in the southeast. Today, it can be found through most of Canada and in 40 of the 50 states, but its range is more scattered than it was historically.

This article has been updated to include comments from Angela De Sapio and figures from the 2010 and 2019 Black Bear Activity Report from the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

American black bear
A hunter in New Jersey has set the North America record with a 700-pound black bear. Pictured: a black bear in northern Minnesota. Lynn_Bystrom/iStock