Sabrina Pugsley(NEW YORK) — A beloved bear who walks upright like a human may have been killed during a hunt in northern New Jersey, according to a local group that has been pushing to get him moved to a wildlife sanctuary.
The black bear named Pedals first became a social media sensation in 2014, when he was caught on video walking around on his hind legs in a residential area of Oak Ridge, New Jersey.
Locals have described Pedals as a friendly fellow who regularly peruses neighborhood trash cans for food. He has been spotted and filmed multiple times over the past two years.
But on Monday night, Pedals was reportedly killed by a bow hunter, according to Sabrina Pugley and Lisa Rose Rublack — two northern New Jersey women who have been following reported sightings of the bear and are pushing to move him to a wildlife sanctuary.
Pugsley previously told ABC News that she was concerned for Pedals’ welfare because his right front paw was missing and his left front paw just dangled “uselessly.”
On Friday, Pugsley and Rublack sent an email to ABC News saying, “PEDALS IS DEAD.”
A group of hunters reportedly saw Pedals’ body at a bear weigh station in the Green Pond neighborhood of Rockaway Township this past Monday evening, Pugsley told ABC News Friday.
The hunters said they saw two biologists, allegedly with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife, “photographing Pedals and showing the deformities on his paws,” Pugsley said.
She added that the hunters, who wanted to remain anonymous “possibly due to fear of backlash from NJ DEP,” told her the biologists confirmed to them that the bear was, indeed, Pedals and that he had been killed by a bow hunter’s arrow.
In response to concerns of Pedals’ death, the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife released a statement on Wednesday.
“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 statement said. “During this current bear hunt period, and in previous bear seasons, 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.”
Pugsley said she remains “100 percent confident” in the sources who told her Pedals was dead. She and Rublack added in a news release that they believed the NJ DEP and its Division of Fish and Wildlife “didn’t have a heart” and “let this happen.”
“They could have been the good guys by helping [Pedals] to get to sanctuary,” they said, referring to a failed petition they started to move Pedals to the Orphaned Wildlife Center in Otisville, New York.
“Instead they did nothing,” Pugsley and Rublack said.
NJ DEP press director Bob Considine did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.
Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.