‘Pedals Law’ — Senator wants to end bear hunt after NJ’s bipedal bruin feared dead
With Pedals the bipedal bear — something of an unofficial mascot and beloved neighbor to residents in Jefferson Township — believed dead, one New Jersey senator is hoping his memory can help end New Jersey's bear hunt for several years.
Democratic State Sen. Raymond Lesniak has introduced S2702 — dubbed "Pedals' Law" — to bar the state's annual bear hunt for five years while a non-lethal bear control program is eliminated.
"I expect this program will be a success and there will never again be a bear hunt in New Jersey," Lesniak wrote on Facebook last week.
The bill would also prohibit bear feeding and deer baiting in bear habitats, and require bear resistance containers in bear habitat areas.
A hearing scheduled for Monday before the Senate Economic Growth Committee, Lesniak said on Facebook, "will demonstrate that bear hunts only temporary decrease the bear population and increase interaction of bears with the public."
"Bear hunts are unnecessary and counterproductive," he wrote. "Let's put an end to them."
Lesniak has also started an online petition seeking to end the state's bear hunt.
For the first time in several decades last week, New Jersey hunters were allowde to kill bears using bows and arrows — and then muzzleloaders later in the week. Five bear hunting zones were open in northern New Jersey.
The state will have a second, firearm-only bear hunting season in December — an extension of a annual hunt run for the last several years. State officials say that while hundreds of bears have been killed in hunts each year, that hasn't put enough of a dent in the state's population of about 3,000 bears.
According to state figures, 562 bears were harvested last week. Last year's hunt killed 510 bears. The state estimates hundreds more are born each year.
Supporters of Pedals — first spotted about three years ago, when he became a YouTube and social media sensation for appearing to walk like a human, the apparent consequence of having injured his front paws — say he was killed by a hunter who'd been targeting him for years. At least some blame the state Department of Environmental Protection for refusing their pleas to have him relocated to a facility in New York; state officials said like many injured animals getting by in the wild, he was better off without human intervention.
The state DEP has said it can't confirm whether a bear killed last week was indeed Pedals — since no DNA records of the bipedal bear were on file.
Lesniak, sponsoring the bill to end the bear hunt, has often advocated for animal rights. He's run a petition looking to override Gov. Chris Christie's veto of a bill banning trophy hunting, and is the sponsor of a bill that would end the practice known as "bear baiting."
The bear hunt itself has often proved controversial. Hunts each year have been met with protests from groups and individuals who advocate non-lethal methods of bear population control.
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