NY won’t let care facility take NJ’s injured, bipedal bear
"Pedals" — the injured, bi-pedal bear who became a social media sensation last year for walking around the Jefferson area like a human — is facing a new obstacle.
New York environmental officials say even if supporters could convince their New Jersey counterparts to let Pedals be moved to a wildlife center in Otisville, they won't permit it, NJ.com reports.
The Orphaned Wildlife Center and hundreds of Jefferson-area residents have been eager to see Pedals relocated, worried he won't make it through the coming winter or the December bear-hunting season, and that his injuries make it hard for him to get around safely in the wild. Representatives of the center have told New Jersey 101.5 they can put him in a special enclosure in which he'd be able to interact with other bears while still being protected.
New York officials told NJ.com a wildlife facility can only have one special permit to take in a bear with special needs — and the center already has another.
It's just the latest hurdle for residents who want to see Pedals moved. So far, nearly 300,000 people have signed a petition urging New Jersey officails to OK the transfer.
But the NJ Department of Environmental protection has told New Jersey 101.5 that so far, its Division of Fish and Wildlife experts don't see a need to move Pedals — saying lots of injured bears make their way without intervention, and the Jefferson-area bear has done so for at least a year. Tranquilizing and relocating it could potentially be harmful, officials have said.
Still, the state has urged residents to report sightings promptly, so it can continue to assess the situation.
"The bear seems to have a range of about 5 miles, so it has been difficult to know it’s exact whereabouts at any given time so our biologists can get a closer look," DEP spokesman Larry Hajna told New Jersey 101.5 last month.
Staff members of the Orphaned Wildlife Center have previously told New Jersey 101.5 it's "kind of shocking" New Jersey won't let them relocate and care for Pedals, who's been hanging around Jefferson Township for about a year.
The DEP says so far, the bear seems to be doing OK despite its injured front paws.
"Injured wild animals should be given every opportunity to survive on their own in the wild," Hajna previously said. "This bear has survived in the wild for at least one year with its impairment without assistance from people."
Pedals became an Internet sensation last year when it was first captured walking around on two legs. Officials said soon after Pedals was injured — it was avoiding use of its front legs.
And most recently, fearing Pedals won't make it through another winter, Sabrina Walsh Pugsley started a successful fundraiser to collect enough money to have Pedals moved to the Orphaned Wildlife Center in Otisville. Kerry Clair of the Orphaned Wildlife Center has said all of the money raised — more than $23,000 as of Saturday — will be returned to donors if her group and the DEP can't come to terms on relocating Pedals.
Clair worries pedals can't dig his own den, and is only spending so much time in a residential neighborhood because he can't manage to get food elsewhere.
Hajna told New Jersey 101.5 last month that during 2014 alone, the Wildlife Services Section received reports of 125 injured bears. Many of those animals have a broken legs, he said. They adapt quickly — "and this bear is no exception," he said.
Clair said her group has recently sent the DEP new photos and videos of the bear, including one in which it lies down in a street repeatedly, seemingly exhausted from walking on its hind legs.
State law prohibits feeding of bears, and advises garbages be secured to keep them from seeking out food in residential neighborhoods. Hajna said that's particularly important in this bear's case, as it may become acclimated to humans and avoid forested areas.
The DEP is asking members of the public who see Pedals to call its hotline at 877-927-6337 while it continues to review the situation.
Louis C. Hochman is digital managing editor for NJ1015.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LouisCHochman.