There’s a bear walking around Oak Ridge, New Jersey – on his hind legs.
“Pedals,” as he’s come to be known, is a strange sight to behold; so strange, that one local woman thought she had witnessed a “guy in a bear suit.” Pedals has his own Facebook fan page, where he has 16,378 “likes” as of this article’s writing.
But his social media page also documents the darker side of Pedals’ story: he is bipedal not by choice, but because his front two legs are severely damaged. The cause of the bear’s deformity is unknown, but researchers speculate that it’s due either to a run-in with a car or a birth defect.
This is where the debate begins. Many residents believe – quite passionately – that Pedals should be captured and put into a sanctuary, where his deformed legs won’t hinder his chances of survival. The other side contends that Pedals is a wild animal, and having already survived into adulthood, he should be left alone to exist in nature.
The group pushing for relocation has built a petition for the cause, which has amassed an astounding 309,000 signatures from around the world. The petition called for state wildlife officials to capture Pedals and send him to a sanctuary in New York State that was ready to take him.
But despite the best efforts of the petition, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW) won’t have it. A video surfaced of Pedals in June of this year, which the NJDFW referenced when explaining their position on Pedals’ future. From the NJDFW website:
“Division biologists note that, based on the video, the bear is active, appears healthy, a little larger than last year, and is thriving on its own having adapted to its condition. The bear was able to find adequate food resources in an area of high bear density and to have successfully denned through at least the past two winters in its current condition. Therefore, there is no need for intervention at this time.”
Pedals’ Facebook page most recent post, dated April 17, 2016, and written in all caps, maintains that the fight isn’t over.
“Many of you know that we have fought an uphill battle and have exhausted all avenues,” the post reads. “If Pedals condition deteriorates we will file a report with the NJDFW… We appreciate all suggestions and advice but we really have tried everything.”
So what do you think? Should Pedals be relocated or left alone? Leave your opinion in the comments.