Pedals, Beloved Upright-Walking Black Bear, Believed Killed in New Jersey Hunt

For more than two years, a bipedal bear nicknamed Pedals fascinated residents of a largely rural section of northern New Jersey.

With two maimed front legs, the American black bear moved around almost entirely upright. He resembled a man in a bear costume, ambling through the neighborhoods of Oak Ridge on his way to Internet stardom.

Pedals had his own Facebook fan page, which has apparently recently been made private.

An online petition calling on state wildlife officials to capture the bear and place him at a sanctuary collected nearly 312,000 signatures from around the world. And an unsuccessful GoFundMe campaign to fund his relocation raised more than $22,000.

Pedals' legion of supporters, however, lament that he apparently was killed by an archer's arrow last week.

It happened on the first day of New Jersey's bow-and-arrow hunting period for black bears, the first in the state since the 1960s. During the six-day season, 562 bears were killed.

"PEDALS IS DEAD," said a post Oct. 14 on the Pedals The Injured Bipedal Bear Facebook page.

The state Department of Environmental Protection, which administers the bear hunt, at first said Pedals' death could not be confirmed.

"I don't think (we'll) ever know because really we don't have the scientific information on the front end to be able to conclusively determine the identity of any bear that isn't tagged," Robert Geist, a department spokesman, told KTLA sister station WPIX in New York.

Lisa Rose-Rublack, an activist who led the petition drive, told CNN that people who were present when the dead bear was delivered to the Green Pond check station Monday told her the hunter boasted about the kill.

"They told us everyone gathered around the truck," she said. "The state biologists confirmed it was Pedals and they all took pictures and the guy was bragging about trying to get Pedals for three years."

The state Division of Fish & Wildlife said in a statement that while it "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."

But then division spokesman Bob Considine confirmed via email Saturday that a dead bear with injured limbs was taken to the Green Pond station earlier in the week.

And on Monday, photos of the slain bear were released, and they appeared to confirm the victim was Pedals.

"The injured paws and chest blaze of this particular adult bear brought to Green Pond appear to be consistent with the bear seen walking upright on several videos taken from North Jersey residents over the past two years,” Considine said Monday, according to the New York Times.

The department did not seem to appreciate the fandom that had grown up around Pedals, the newspaper reported.

“While many have developed an emotional attachment to the upright bear, it is important to recognize that all black bears are wildlife,” Considine said. “They are not pets. They are capable of doing damage, even in a compromised state.”

Rose-Rublack and others were in mourning.

"It's kind of sad," she said. "We believe that Pedals is gone and we're going to move forward."

The statement on the Pedals Facebook page asked people to contact various officials, including Gov. Chris Christie, with complaints.

"This can not be fixed but perhaps we can make a change to how wildlife is treated in this state," the statement said.

The post added, "The hunter who has wanted him dead for nearly 3 years had the satisfaction of putting an arrow through him, bragging at the station. ... The NJDEP and F&W really don't have a heart. They let this happen. They could have been the good guys by helping him to get to sanctuary. Instead they did nothing."

Considine declined to comment on the post.

Meanwhile, a hunter who apparently had been targeted on social media after arguing with supporters of Pedals was cleared Tuesday afternoon by the state's Department of Environmental Protection.

Thomas McCreary, who was accused in Pedals' death, was not the hunter who killed the bear, the department said, according to cable television station News 12 New Jersey.

McCreary told the station he was warned to watch his back and that his bar was going to be shot up.

Opponents of the bear hunt told News 12 that activists jumped to the conclusion McCreary was responsible for Pedals' death when he didn't immediately deny involvement.

The beloved animal's death comes as New Jersey has been struggling with a growing bear population.

Black bears have been seen in all of the state's 21 counties. But encounters with humans, as well as attacks, are unusual, officials have said.

In 2014, a 22-year-old Rutgers University student was mauled to death by a 300-pound black bear as he hiked with friends in a wooded area in West Milford, New Jersey.

Rose-Rublack said part of Pedals' appeal was that he resembled a man in a bear suit.

"Everybody was like, 'What the heck?'" she said. "It just went around the world and once it took off, it was crazy. People were coming to look for Pedals and the neighborhood kids were throwing rocks at him. ... We had videos of people being not so nice to him. The poor bear just needed to get out of there."

She believes Pedals' popularity made him a target among some hunters.

"I had to go to the bar and have a couple of drinks to celebrate his life," she said.

New Jersey will allow the hunting of bears with certain firearms from Dec. 5 to Dec. 10. As with the October hunt, permits are required.