Pedals the bear’s fans say he’s dead, and NJ shares the blame
JEFFERSON — Supporters of Pedals — the bipedal bear and YouTube sensation that began walking on its hind legs after injuring its front paws — say the bear is dead. And they blame New Jersey state officials.
In posts on a Facebook page dedicated to tracking Pedals and in an email to New Jersey 101.5, supporter Lisa Rose said Pedals had been killed by a hunter during this week's bear hunt. But state officials have said they can't confirm whether any bear harvested during this week's hunt is indeed Pedals, because they don't have biological samples from him to compare with those weighed and registered as kills from the hunt.
Still, the common understanding on social media and among supporters in the Jefferson Township area is that Pedals is deceased.
"The hunter who has wanted him dead for nearly three years had the satisfaction of putting an arrow through him, bragging at the station," Rose said. Her message also said the hunter had called New Jersey 101.5 to brag about the kill, but New Jersey 101.5 has been able to find no record of such a call.
Rose had been the founder of a petition signed by more than 311,000 people, asking state officials to move Pedals to the Orphaned Wildlife Center in Otisville, New York. Last year, the center said it was ready to take Pedals into a special enclosure where he could interact with other bears without any danger. Sabrina Pugsley from the Oak Ridge section of Jefferson raised more than $22,000 through a fundraiser to relocate the bear.
But New York officials said at the time they’ll only allow the center one permit for a special-needs bear, and it already has another. And the New Jersey DEP repeatedly said Pedals was getting by without human intervention — and therefore better off left alone.
In October of last year, state officials put out a plea for help locating Pedals — so they could catch up with the bear and better assess its situation.
“The bear seems to have a range of about 5 miles, so it has been difficult to know its exact whereabouts at any given time so our biologists can get a closer look,” DEP spokesman Lawrence Hajna said at the time.
But he'd also previously told New Jersey 101.5: “Injured wild animals should be given every opportunity to survive on their own in the wild. This bear has survived in the wild for at least one year with its impairment without assistance from people.”
That message didn't sit well with Rose or other supporters.
"There are many hunters who feel Pedals should have been taken to sanctuary, many who felt he should have amnesty from the hunt, many who would never think to kill him and many who saw firsthand when he was brought in to Green Pond station on Monday evening," Rose wrote in her message this week.
She said those are the people whose accounts show Pedals has indeed be killed.
She said Green Pond was "the very place where (the state Division of Fish and Wildlife) weighed him, examined his legs and confirmed it was 'the bi-pedal' (bear)." She said two biologists on hand had taken several pictures.
Rose said Pedals "is at peace now because his beautiful soul left his body when he was killed."
"The NJDEP and F&W could have been the good guys by helping him to get to sanctuary. They ignored the calls when there were real-time sightings, only to call back days later to ask where he was. When we delivered the petition the DEP didn’t allow two women past the desk. Instead they told us to leave our boxes and boxes of signatures against the wall in the lobby," she wrote. "Not one person from the DEP came to accept the over 240,000 signatures."
She also noted a demonstration supporters held last year, asking Gov. Chris Christie to intervene and allow Pedals to be relocated.
"The DEP and F&W have tiptoed around this whole situation with lame statements that were very open ended, now they have lied," Rose wrote, accusing the DEP of being dishonest when it said it couldn't conclusively know if a bear killed this week was indeed Pedals.
In her statement, she urges supporters to call Christie or DEP officials to make their displeasure known — and urge changes to how wildlife is treated in New Jersey.
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