There’s sad news for bear lovers in New Jersey. Pedals, the completely bipedal bear that’s amazed residents in Northern New Jersey suburbs for two years, is most likely dead, killed by a bow hunter during this year’s fall bear hunt.
Hunters at a weigh station in Northern New Jersey reported that the body of a bear matching his description, with similarly injured paws, was brought in by a hunter, then studied and photographed by biologists on the scene. However, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife issued a statement clarifying that it’s impossible to definitively identify a bear that hasn’t been previously tagged or had a DNA sample previously taken. Still, the situation looks grim for the popular bear.
Bear hunting is completely legal in New Jersey, and since the species has no natural predators, and bear populations are rising, wildlife biologists believe hunting is necessary to keep the bear population in check. However, sometimes individual animals can capture the imagination, and the hearts, of ordinary people. Pedals was such a creature. Beloved by many, photographs and videos of Pedals walking completely upright, like a human being, have been circulating extensively on the internet for about two years.
Watch initial news report of Pedals waking upright (ABC News / Youtube):
The intrepid black bear apparently survived debilitating injuries, learning to walk for extended periods of time on his hind legs, which is beyond the ability of most bears. He was frequently seen passing through suburban neighborhoods, raiding trash cans for an easy meal. People liked him, and felt he was a non-threatening, gentle soul. Of course, bears are powerful animals, and potentially dangerous when thrust into close contact with human beings.
That said, Pedals was never known to harm or threaten anyone. Instead, he inspired fascination, respect, and love in most people who learned about his struggle, or caught a glimpse of him strolling through their neighborhoods and backyards. But clearly these positive feelings were not universal, since reports indicate that the hunter who allegedly killed Pedals had been trying to take the bear for the last two years—-Pedals was the intended target.
New Jersey residents rooting for the upright bear started a petition to have Pedals captured and transferred to a bear sanctuary, where he would have been protected from harm for the rest of his natural life. But the petition failed, so Pedals remained free, and subject to the dangers of the hunt, like all other wild black bears in New Jersey. As a general rule, wildlife experts try to minimize the amount of special treatment and human intervention extended to animals, like bears, in the wild. Since Pedals was getting along well on his own, despite his injuries, experts felt no intervention was warranted in his case.
While Pedal’s death was strictly by the book, and appears to be 100% within the bounds of the law, large numbers of ordinary citizens are undoubtedly expressing anger, outrage, and a strong sense of loss as they learn of the death of this unusual and popular creature.
Photo: Sabrina Pugsley / ABC News