One surefire way to get a reaction on Facebook is to post a photograph of big game hunter with a recently deceased animal. If that’s not enough to up the outrage, these pictures can be accompanied by stories about the supposed cowardly behavior of the hunter.
That seemed to be the tactic employed by various social media users as they circulated a photograph in October 2017 purportedly showing a man named “Michael Lombardi” and the “hibernating bear” he had just killed:
This photograph has been circulating since December 2015 when it was posted to Twitter along with the caption: “First bear during New Jersey’s bear hunt”:
[Editor’s note: As some social media users have taken to harassing an unrelated “Michael Lombardi” on Facebook, we’ve decided not to link to the original Twitter post.]
New Jersey holds an annual bear hunt (which often extends into December) in an effort to cull the black bear population. In 2015, when this photograph was taken, more than 500 bears were killed during the hunt, according to NJ.com:
More than 500 bears have been killed in this year’s annual hunt but still the rate is below what state biologists say is needed to keep the black bear population stable — and to stop bears from expanding their range throughout the state.
Reintroduced in 2010, the aim of the annual bear hunt, according to the Department of Environmental Protection, is to keep the black bear population in check by balancing out the number of cubs born every year, known as “recruitment.” Animal-rights activists and environmental groups have regularly protested the hunt, saying killing the animals is neither humane nor an effective long-term solution.
“We have a very productive bear population that on average has a litter of two or three cubs (each year), but sometimes as many as four or five,” said DEP spokesman Larry Hajna. “More bears are being born than are being lost.”‘
The goal, Hajna said, is to cull between 20 to 30 percent of the 133 bears tagged by the Division of Fish and Wildlife — a range of between 26 to 40 tagged bears. After the first week of the hunt fell short of that figure despite a greater harvest than the past two years, the season was extended by four days.
Not only was this image circulated with the baseless claim that it showed a bear that was killed during hibernation, it was also passed around in certain circles attached to the rumor that President Trump had legalized such a killing:
This is Michael. Michael lives in New Jersey. Due to a change by the Trump administration he got to kill this bear while it was hibernating. Michael is a fucking chickenshit. Don’t be Michael.
This rumor appears to be a misinterpretation of a piece of legislation Trump signed in April 2017 which nullified some federal protections for bears, wolves, and other predatory animals. Although the Trump administration eased restrictions on killing predatory animals, these changes only affected those in Alaska, not New Jersey, and the legislation did not make it legal for hunters to kill hibernating bears.