Activist protests bear trapping.

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:49

    VERNON TOWNSHIP-An animal rights activist protesting the state's bear control methods locked herself into a bear trap last week before being arrested. Angela Metler, 47, of the Highland Lakes section of Vernon, was charged Aug. 23 with obstruction of governmental functions and additional charges against her are pending, authorities said. "Once she entered the trap, she locked herself with a lock to the bear trap itself, which required us to first remove the lock and then remove the lady," Sgt. Robert Walsh said. Police also said they had to disassemble part of the trap to get Metler out. The state's rebounding bear population has led to more bear encounters with people. Because of that, state wildlife officials trap bears for relocation or to euthanize ones that prove dangerous. Last December, 328 bears were killed during a six-day hunt, the first in New Jersey in 33 years. In July, a state game panel sanctioned a second hunt for this December, prompting opposition from Environmental Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell, who has threatened to withhold permits from hunters. Proponents maintain the hunt is necessary to thin the bruins' numbers. But animal advocates have urged state officials to consider options other than hunting. Metler, who is director of the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance and a member of the Bear Education and Resource (B.E.A.R.) Group, was a vocal opponent of last year's bear hunt. At the state game panel's July meeting, she told The Associated Press she planned to continue her opposition to a second hunt. "I'm going to fight it with everything I've got," she said. "I'm not going away." Vernon Police said the bear trap belonged to the Department of Environmental Protection. It was placed by state wildlife officials at the residence of Leonard Smith at 1018 East Lakeside Drive in Highland Lakes after a bear entered a screened porch to obtain animal feed that is stored there. In a statement released before she entered the trap, Metler said, "I'm taking this action to stop a bear from being killed. Trapping and killing a bear will not stop a future incident at this home as long as animal feed and garbage are improperly stored there. Additionally, hunting bears did not prevent this complaint. Only bear-proofing can insure peaceful coexistence between bears and humans." The B.E.A.R. Group urges homeowners to store animal feed in bear-proof containers at all times and to properly manage garbage so bears aren't lured into residential areas.