Pedals, the injured, tall-walking black bear whose two-year trudge through suburban North Jersey made him an Internet sensation, appears to have been killed in the state’s first bow hunt in four decades.
The state Division of Fish and Wildlife confirmed late Friday it had pictures of an injured bear that was brought into the Green Pond check station in Rockaway earlier this week.
“There are pictures of a bear with injured limbs that was brought into the station,” said Bob Considine, a spokesman for the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Pedals had never been tagged by Fish and Wildlife, which makes a positive identification more difficult. But the division’s brief statement on the controversy came close to confirming what the Facebook group that made the bear famous had been saying since mid-week.
“PEDALS IS DEAD,” said a statement that was posted to the Pedals the Injured Biped Bear page on Facebook on Friday morning. “The hunter who has wanted him dead for nearly 3 years had the satisfaction of putting an arrow through him, bragging at the [check] station.”
The statement was posted by Lisa Rose-Rublack, a Bloomingdale resident who led a campaign that raised more than $20,000 to relocate the bear to an enclosed sanctuary in upstate New York. “The very place where they weighed him, examined his legs, confirmed it was ‘the bi-pedal,’” she wrote. “Where there were two biologists on hand taking many, many pictures.”
Pedals was frequently filmed as he wandered on two legs through Oak Ridge and Rockaway. The Facebook page that Sabrina Pugsley of Oak Ridge started made Pedals a cyber-star, but he now appears to be a casualty of New Jersey’s first bow hunt in more than 40 years.
“I’m hoping he’s not the one, but there’s a strong possibility that he is the one,” said Eleanor Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the Bear Education and Resource Group, which opposes the hunt.
Considine said Fish and Wildlife biologists did take pictures as bears were brought into the Rockaway check station on Monday.
“We believe there were indeed photos taken at the Green Pond station by our biologists, which does happen [on] occasion at weigh in stations,” he said. “We’re tracking down how many photos there are and when they were taken. Whatever we have, we’ll look to distribute them next week, after the six-day bear hunt is over. Hopefully Monday.”
Reached by email, Rose-Rublack said eyewitnesses who were at the Rockaway check station on Monday evening said a hunter bragged about killing Pedals. But she refused to disclose the names of the eyewitnesses.
“We told them we wouldn’t give names and we won’t,” she said.
Her statement also suggests someone called radio station New Jersey 101.5 pledging to kill Pedals — but the station has no record of receiving a call like that.
“We’ve only been reporting the story,” said Dan Alexander, a news writer who has covered the Pedals saga for the station. “We’ve talked to our producers and our hosts, and we haven’t had anyone on the air saying they were responsible for the death.”
Rose-Rublack said she called the radio station as well.
“Yes, they told me they can’t find anything,” she said. “We saw a couple of [online] posts when it aired on Tuesday. We don’t record everything but I sure wish we snapped a pic of that post.”
Rose-Rublack said she was certain that Pedals was dead. “Ask the DEP who their paid biologists were on the scene that day,” she said. “We pay them an awful lot of money. I would think they can tell a bipedal bear just from what they know of him.
Fears that Pedals has been killed reached a fever pitch just as the bear hunt was drawing to a close. As of sunrise Friday, 432 bears had been killed.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, an ardent opponent of the bear hunt, took to Twitter late Friday afternoon. “Petals is dead humans can be so cruel,” he tweeted, misspelling the name of the bear.