NJ officials: We can’t tell if hunter killed Pedals the Bear
TRENTON — Is Pedals the Bear alive? Short of seeing him out and about again, we may never be sure.
The state Department of Environmental Protection acknowledged Thursday that they have received many calls from the public asking whether Pedals had been killed during the current black bear bow hunting season.
Pedals is a wild bear that walks on his hind legs because of an injury.
Hunters have killed several bears with missing limbs, but there is no way to know if any of them are this bruin made famous by animal lovers.
"While the Division appreciates the concern for the bear, it has no way of verifying the identify of any bear that has not been previously tagged or had a DNA sample previously taken," the DEP said in a statement that does not refer to the bear by his popular moniker.
The semiannual bear hunt remains controversial. Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly on Thursday advanced legislation to end black bear hunts.
Messages posted on the Pedals support group on Facebook and elsewhere claim that a hunter this week bragged about shooting Pedals bringing him to the Rockaway weigh station.
Pedals was spotted a few times in June after an absence of several months, according to a Facebook page dedicated to updating the public on Pedals sightings and his condition.
The DEP said there have been multiple bears observed at different check stations with injured or missing limbs.
"Upon arrival to check stations, bears are weighed and measured around the head. DNA samples are taken and a tooth is extracted to determine the bear's age. But without any prior scientific data taken from a bear, it is not possible to verify the identity of a bear that has been harvested."
On Tuesday, 75 bears were killed during the black bear bow hunt, bringing the total to 281, according to the DEP’s count.
Supporters tried to raise money to relocate Pedals to the Orphaned Wildlife Center in Otisville, New York. Center spokeswoman Kerry Clair on said they have a home ready for him but permission still needs to be granted from the state to move him out of New Jersey.
Clair is skeptical that the DEP can't identity Pedals.
"This is the only way they can manage to save face because they know people are going to go nuts if Pedals was killed and it will reflect negatively on them," she said.
"This bear survived so many obstacles to live. He made it. And to get shot not even with a gun where it would have been quick. A bow hunter takes him out for a trophy. It's just disgusting," she added. "I can't believe that (the DEP) is in charge of caring for our wildlife. Because they don't care."
On the NewJerseyHunter.com forum, most user comments said Pedals is suffering and that it would be more humane to shoot him in a hunt.