A beloved bear known to roam the suburbs of northern New Jersey while walking upright on its hind legs has reportedly been killed in a legal hunt.
The black bear, nicknamed Pedals for its unusual bipedal walk, appeared to have injured front paws and seemed to adapt by adopting a Yogi Bear-esque stance.
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife put out a statement late last week saying a bear matching Pedals’ description was brought in to a state check station in Rockaway, N.J. — a mandatory requirement for hunters.
But the department said it can’t confirm that it is Pedals.
“While the Division appreciates the concern for the bear, it has no way of verifying the identity of any bear that has not been previously tagged or had a DNA sample previously taken.”
Bears killed in the hunt are brought to the stations to be weighed and measured. Officials also take DNA samples and extract a tooth to determine a bear’s age.
The department said multiple bears with injured or missing limbs were brought in.
Hunters killed 549 bears in the hunt, which was open from Oct. 10-15. It was the first bear hunt to use bows and arrows since the late 60s. Another hunt, in which firearms can be used, is scheduled for Dec. 5-10.
The hunting season was re-instated several years ago to manage the increasing bear population.
The reported kill has sparked outrage by people who think the bear should have been protected.
RIP Pedals, he was a very fancy bear. https://t.co/UBgwoeT5jM
I’m pro hunting, but this bear was a celebrity and this was wrong. Shooting Pedals was like shooting Yogi or Boo Boo. https://t.co/oxrOsZoA2w
News of the bear’s reported death spread online, and by Monday morning, an online petition had gathered more than 3,000 signatures in support of revoking the hunting licence of the person who killed the bear.
Over the years, activists had worked to move the bear to a sanctuary, even though state biologists had previously said the bear was fine on its own.
Sabrina Lyn had raised more than $ 20,000 US in a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign to move Pedals. She told CBC News that a witness who was at the check station told her that Pedals was, in fact, killed.
Another online petition had also gathered more than 300,000 signatures in support of moving the bear to a sanctuary.
State officials had explained their position to leave the bear alone after another sighting was filmed in July.
“Division biologists note that, based on the video, the bear is active, appears healthy, a little larger than last year, and is thriving on its own having adapted to its condition. The bear was able to find adequate food resources in an area of high bear density [and has] successfully denned through at least the past two winters in its current condition. Therefore, there is no need for intervention at this time.”
They stressed that it’s important that the public does not feed or approach any bears.
“Bears that learn to associate food with people can become nuisance bears and possibly cause property damage and/or harm pets, livestock and people.”
Senator wants to ban hunt
Pedals first appeared in 2014 after New Jersey residents spotted the bear ambling around their backyards.
While most people seem to be focusing their energy and outrage on Pedals, a New Jersey state senator is expanding on that. Raymond J. Lesniak is calling for an end to bear hunts, saying they are “unnecessary and counterproductive.”
His petition is due to be brought to the state senate’s economic development and agriculture committee on Monday.