Due to their large stature and their territorial tendencies, people around the world are advised against approaching wild bears. They are told to stay away, and to avoid the four-legged creatures. However, when the authorities didn’t act quick enough when residents reported a bear walking like a human through the neighborhood, the locals knew they would have to take action.
A bear on the loose
Although popular culture has taught us that animated bears rarely have a bad bone in their body, it’s safe to say that real-life bears are a little different. In fact, animal experts and park rangers ensure that people are aware of the dangers of these four-legged creatures and that they never get too close.
With their giant claws, their incredible height and their strong teeth, it’s important to steer clear of these animals. However, when one bear began to walk through one neighborhood on its hind legs, the residents knew they had to do something.
On its hind legs
Most of us haven’t been unlucky enough to see a bear up close and in the wild, and that’s probably a good thing. However, it’s a well-known fact that these animals walk on all four of their legs, and only really venture onto their hind legs when they are reaching up towards a tree or something that’s above them.
That’s why the residents of this town were so confused. Why was the bear wandering around like a human? Although they alerted the authorities, they were just too late, and this eventually proved to have devastating consequences…
The first sighting
The first sighting of this bear took place in October 2014 in the Oak Ridge area of New Jersey. The bear was spotted by residents of the neighborhood who were simply going about their business on what seemed like a normal day.
They were walking up and down the street, driving along the roads, and usually passing each other with a smile and a wave. Yet, they soon spotted something that looked a little out of place walking beside them.
A school mascot?
As the residents of Oak Ridge made their way down the street, they spotted a giant bear-like figure walking along the sidewalk. Because the figure was walking on its hind legs and seemed to be incredibly human-like, the residents just assumed that it was a human.
They believed it could be some form of prank, or a human dressed up as a school mascot. With this in mind, they carried on with their day and put the prankster towards the back of their mind. Yet, they soon realized that things weren’t as they first seemed.
A real bear
The bear-like figure seemed unfazed by his surroundings and continued to walk down the street and into the yards of the houses in front of him. It was at this point that the residents noticed the bear-like figure wasn’t a human in a costume at all but was an actual bear!
The homeowners were speechless as they watched the bear walk from house to house, searching through their trash cans in search of food. The bear never once dropped down onto all fours but walked on his hind legs the whole time.
Although the residents of Oak Ridge were amazed and confused to see a bear wandering through their streets, they knew that bears often made their way through their neighborhood.
They were aware that these bears would come and go, and that they just had to keep their distance to ensure their own safety and the safety of the bear. However, the bear who liked to walk on its hind legs just didn’t seem to want to leave. Because of this, the residents decided to give him an adorable nickname; Pedals.
An injured bear
For days, those in the neighborhood watched Pedals make his way around the houses and search through their trash cans in search of something edible.
Yet, they soon realized that there was something much more sinister about the bear that was standing on its hind legs in front of them. When they were able to get a closer look at the bear, they noticed that he was not just walking on its hind legs because he wanted to. He was forced to do so because he was an injured bear.
In fact, the black bear they called Pedals was severely injured. It was clear for the residents to see that one of his paws had been hurt in some fashion and that his other paw was missing completely.
Because of this, Pedals could not put any weight on his front paw. He was forced to walk around on his hind legs, and he had no other option but to deal with what was in front of him. This made him extremely vulnerable, and the residents of Oak Ridge knew this and were extremely worried about his condition.
Taking a video
To showcase Pedals’ condition to the rest of the world, one resident decided to film the bear as he made his way around the neighborhood.
They intended to show the authorities in the hope that they would be able to aid the injured bear, but they also decided to share the video on social media. Within just a couple of days, the video had become a viral sensation and had been watched by millions of people across the globe. One person even created a Facebook page dedicated to the bipedal bear and its plight.
Keeping an eye open
As more and more people learned of Pedals and his condition, people from across the world began to follow his progress. Because he had largely stayed in the Oak Ridge area, the residents were able to keep an eye open and keep an eye on his condition.
News stations across the area caught up on the story, and this alerted the authorities. However, experts were reluctant to get involved in such a case. The large bear did not seem to be in distress and seemed to be in good health – despite his paws.
Decided against it
Because of this, experts at the Department of Environmental Protection decided against capturing Pedals and giving him a helping hand. They noted that his place was in the wild and that they didn’t want to interfere with his natural habitat.
At the time, a spokesperson by the name of Lawrence Hajna stated that Pedals was an “indomitable spirit” and that the agency would get involved if Pedals’ health deteriorated or his well being was in danger. Yet, the residents of Oak Ridge weren’t happy with this answer.
Putting up a fight
The residents who had to watch the injured bear wander around their neighborhood on its hind legs were determined to put up a fight.
They knew that Pedals needed care and attention, and they wanted him to be transferred to a sanctuary in New York where he could be looked after properly. Unfortunately, the agency denied their request, and it seems as though this decision really did have a huge effect on Pedals and his life in the world. This effect would not become public until two years later in 2016.
Signing the petition
Amazingly, the residents of Oak Ridge were so determined to keep Pedals safe that they eventually started a petition to get the Department of Environmental Protection to transfer the black bear to a sanctuary.
Over the course of a few months, they were able to reach out on social media and receive a whopping 300,000 signatures. Alongside this, they also raised an incredible $22,000 of their own money to ensure that he could be moved safely and securely. Their pleas were once again rejected.
Back into the wild
After the agency refused to move Pedals to a safe space, the residents of Oak Ridge were happy to see that their neighborhood bear had disappeared.
While they did not know where it had gone, they were confident that their bear had simply made his way back into the forest to live out the rest of his days. He had proven over the course of his time in the neighborhood that he was capable of looking after himself, and they had no worries. Yet, it seems as though they should have been worried.
Returning to Oak Ridge
For a few months, the people of Oak Ridge lived a bear-free life, and although they kept an eye out for their favorite bipedal bear, they didn’t see Pedal return to the area. At least, that was the case for a little while.
A couple of months after their last sighting, one resident looked out of their window to see that Pedal had returned to the neighborhood with his damaged paws still held aloft. The human-like bear was once again captured on video, but he didn’t stick around for long.
Saying goodbye to Pedals
In 2016, the world was saddened by the news that Pedals was no longer alive. He had fallen victim to a hunter in the local area and had suffered a fatal crossbow wound during a state hunt.
News of his passing was immediately reported on his Facebook page, and it’s safe to say that the residents of Oak Ridge and others around the world were horrified. Many were convinced that the local government and animal services had not done enough to protect the injured bear. They also called out the hunter, who was not named.
The state of New Jersey is home to a large population of black bears, and in 2009 it was recorded that there were around 3,400 bears roaming the area.
Because this state is densely populated with humans and bears, the local government created a regulated hunting season in 2010. This has since become an annual event, whereby hunters gather together to manage the population. In 2016, a whopping 562 bears were killed during this annual state hunt – and it’s believed that Pedal was one of those bears.
Bow and arrow hunt
The mass hunt that claimed the lives of the hundreds of black bears, Pedals likely among them, was notable for the fact it was the first state-sanctioned hunt to have included bows and arrows used as weapons since the 1960s.
This was on top of the muzzle-loading rifles that were also used to hunt the animals down. Authorities initially wouldn’t confirm Pedals was even among the casualties, saying that since he wasn’t tagged it was difficult to say whether he was killed, but that certain signs said that he might have been.
Although many people in the New Jersey area take part in this hunt, there is also a large portion of the population who disagree with such a practice. They do not feel as though innocent lives should be harmed and state that there must be another way to manage such a population.
The news that Pedals was one of the bears harmed in this hunt sparked another dimension to this debate. The hashtag of #JusticeForPedal was trending on Twitter, and countless people had to have their say on the matter.
Who is at fault?
Many protestors believed that the authorities played a hefty role in the demise of Pedals. Despite numerous attempts to have the injured bear moved to safety, their pleas were rejected, and Pedals had to suffer at the bow and arrow of malicious hunters.
In fact, the residents of Oak Ridge wanted to know who was at fault for his passing. A large portion of the residents believed it was the authorities, while another portion believed it was the hunter himself. However, the details were scarce when it came to the hunter.
They were ‘gunning for him’
Director of the New Jersey-based Bear Education and Resource Program Angi Metler was furious with the unnamed hunter or hunters killing Pedals.
She explained they wanted him to go to a sanctuary instead, so he could live out his life without fear of being hunted because he was an “internet sensation.” She was also certain that the hunters participating in the hunt were “gunning for him” specifically due to his online fame. “If you don’t get upset about this, there’s something wrong with you,” she declared.
A spokesman for the New Jersey division of fish and wildlife wished to downplay Pedals’ death, while also defending the hunting of bears in the state in general.
“While many have developed an emotional attachment to the upright bear,” he explained, “it’s important to recognize that all black bears are wildlife. The animals were not domesticated pets, he stressed, adding they were dangerous even if in a “compromised state,” as Pedals was due to his injury.
The Orphaned Wildlife Center
Were Pedals to be saved, he would have been sent to the Orphaned Wildlife Center, situated in Otisville, New York, which is already home to 11 bears – and one duck!
The center’s main goal is to rehabilitate wild animals so that they could be returned to the wild, and to provide a safe haven for those that cannot be returned. The center’s managers stress that the bears are not trained to perform or “do” anything, and that they’re only concern is for their wellbeing.
Breach of privacy
Because Pedals was such a huge presence in the area, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection refused to reveal any details about the hunter.
While the residents of Oak Ridge wanted to place the blame, they were not allowed to know the name of the person who took their bear from them. The NJDEP noted that revealing the name of the hunter would be a “breach of their privacy” and would actually put their “personal security at risk.” Needless to say that this was not the answer the residents wanted.
Hunter in the crosshairs
Despite the state refusing to divulge the details of the person responsible for killing Pedals, one man was identified online as the culprit and suffered an alleged campaign of harassment that led him to sue those he said had defamed him.
The hunter, John H. DeFilippo, sued several people in a New Jersey court for defamation of character and invasion of privacy, claiming that he was not Pedals’ killer but that he was still harassed online and that his personal details were made public. The suit is still ongoing.
Protesting the hunt
Pedals’ story becoming so famous may well have contributed to the outpouring of voices calling to put a stop to the annual bear hunts.
One man – a City College of New York psychology professor – has been jailed numerous times for his involvement with the bear hunt protests. The last time he was arrested, in late 2017, the judge presiding over the case even joked that seeing him in court had become an annual tradition! Unfortunately, that didn’t stop him from sending the man to jail for 15 days.
Not long after the Pedals’ death, it seemed like those protesting the hunts would find help from an official source.
State Senator Raymond Lesniak proposed a bill nicknamed “Pedals’ Law” in the state legislature that would ban black bear hunting in New Jersey for five years while other, non-lethal alternatives to controlling their population are explored. Unfortunately, it was assumed that even if the bill were to pass, then-governor Chris Christie, who supports the annual hunt, would veto it.
Another crack at the ban
New Jersey’s current governor, Phil Murphy, had proven somewhat more sympathetic to the bears’ plight, and has promised to institute the five-year ban on hunting.
However, so far the ban only pertains to lands owned by the state, which means county, federal, municipal, and private lands are all still open to hunters. However, activists for the bears are not giving up, and are continuing to lobby local politicians in the attempt to get them to join their cause for a full ban.
Although countless people across the world are still angry that Pedals the bear has been taken from the world, they are also intent on keeping his memory alive. On the Facebook page dedicated to the bipedal bear, the founder wrote a heartwarming note to those who liked the page.
Beth Ann Bauman wanted the people who followed his story to remember that, “Pedals was nothing short of amazing. His determination was inspiring… Pedals deserved better. It didn’t have to end this way.” Rest in peace, Pedals.
Over in California, a bear had significantly better luck compared to Pedals. A man named Mark Hough from Altadena, in southern California, ran his hot tub and fixed himself a nice, frosty margarita, all ready to lounge in the sun on a lazy afternoon.
The jets were already running, when Mark spotted a huge brown bear climb over his neighbor’s fence and wander onto his backyard. At first, Mark felt threatened, but when he saw what the bear did, he couldn’t contain himself.
Sipping margarita in the tub
Before Mark’s unbelieving eyes, the bear climbed right into the hot tub, where he proceeded to just lay back and chill for a few minutes. When it was content, it got up, and began to leave, when he noticed Mark’s prepared glass of margarita.
Knocking the glass over, the bear lapped up the drink and then went on his merry, tipsy way. He was later seen lounging in a nearby tree, probably completely drunk. As for Mark, he later made himself two drinks for the one he lost.