Pedals, a beloved bear that walked upright like a person in suburban New Jersey, is thought to have been killed by a hunter with a bow and arrow last week, as part of the state’s week-long legal hunting season.
Lisa Rose-Rublack, a local activist who had led a petition drive to put Pedals in a sanctuary, told CNN that state officials on the scene confirmed a carcass brought in by a hunter was Pedals, although the state’s official press office says biologists cannot conclusively confirm the animal’s identity, absent a tracking collar or a history of DNA records.
Rose-Rublack also said the hunter boasted of having shot Pedals and said he had been targeting the famous bear for some time.
Pedals had developed a strong local, and online, following over the past few years, after the bear was frequently seen and photographed. The male American black bear had an injury that prevented him from walking on all fours. Wildlife officials had also been watching Pedals, and they reported he was healthy and doing well as of this summer.
As National Geographic previously reported, there are many examples of bears overcoming injuries or genetic defects and surviving in the wild. A bear biologist confirmed that Pedals' gait was unusual but was another example of how resilient and resourceful animals can be.
The loss of Pedals has hit the bear’s fan community hard. A Facebook group dedicated to the bear (which is currently offline) said state officials “really don’t have a heart” in allowing the bear to be shot, adding that they were “feeling heartbroken.”
Others expressed outrage at the anonymous hunter via Tweets.
Rose-Rublack’s petition had collected more than 300,000 signatures in support of moving Pedals to a sanctuary, and a GoFundMe page had raised more than $22,000 for that effort. Yet others in the local and scientific community had said there was no reason to interfere with the bear, since it seemed to be doing well on its own.
New Jersey’s bear hunt has only been reinstated for a few years, and this was the first year since the 1960s that bow hunting was allowed. Bears were nearly wiped out from the state over the past few centuries, but thanks to restrictions on hunting and regrowth of forest they have rebounded over the past few years. They have since been reported in all 21 of the state’s counties.
Black bears are usually considered non-aggressive and fearful of people, although occasionally incidents occur, sometimes when the bears are startled or if they feel their cubs are threatened. The state recorded its first confirmed death by a black bear in 2014, when a hiker was killed after a run-in.
The death of Pedals comes during a year that has seen the demise of another famous bear, as well as the much publicized killing of Harambe, a zoo gorilla that grabbed a child who fell in its enclosure.