State officials in New Jersey confirmed Monday that Pedals, the famous upright-walking bear, appears to have been killed in last week's bear hunt.
News of the beloved black bear's death began spreading online last week when a Facebook group supporting Pedals announced that a hunter fatally shot the bear with an arrow.
The animal was taken to the Greenpond check station last Monday, where Department of Environmental Protection biologists observed injuries or defects to the 333-pound bear's front paws.
"The injured paws and chest blaze of this particular adult bear brought to Green Pond appear to be consistent with the bear seen walking upright on several videos taken from North Jersey residents over the past two years," DEP spokesman Bob Considine said.
"While many have developed an emotional attachment to the upright bear, it is important to recognize that all black bears are wildlife," said Considine. "They are not pets. They are capable of doing damage, even in a compromised state."
He added that there's no practical way for the state to protect a single bear out of the estimated 3,000 bears roaming wild in the bear country.
The "Pedals the Injured Bipedal Bear" Facebook page said the hunter that shot Pedals had bragged about wanting the animal dead for nearly three years.
"For the hundreds and thousands of animals lovers who were following his story, I am sorry that we have this sad news to bring to you," supporters said in the post. "PEDALS is at peace now because his beautiful soul left his body when he was killed."
Supporters had long advocated for Pedals to be placed in a sanctuary in New York state, but New Jersey officials maintained that "a black bear which is surviving or thriving in the while through multiple denning seasons should remain in the wild and not be trapped in an enclosure."
Considine added Monday that the state's annual black bear hunt helps the state manage the bear population amid increasing bear-human encounters and property and livestock damage.
A total of 562 bears were killed in the most recent hunt using archery and muzzleloader, which ended Saturday.
The northwest quadrant of New Jersey has more black bears per square mile than any other location in North America, as well as one of the nation's highest bear reproduction rates, "due largely to abundant food sources and excellent habitat," the DEP says.