Hunter — I didn’t kill Pedals the bear, but I’m getting death threats
TRENTON — The hunter accused broadly on social media of shooting Pedals, New Jersey's infamous bipedal bear, says he didn't kill the bruin — nor any other bear in the Garden State.
Thomas McCreary of Bridgewater told New Jersey 101.5 that the rumors on Facebook that he shot Pedals and bragged about it are untrue.
“I know I didn’t. I’ve never tagged a bear in the state of New Jersey. I still have my bear tag attached to my license. If I had tagged a bear it wouldn’t be there," McCreary said Monday.
McCreary, a 40-year-old business owner who has been a hunter for 29 years, says rumors began to spread after he started making comments on a Facebook page dedicated to Pedals.
“This whole story about this bear being shot is nothing but propaganda and hearsay. This thing took off because one person made a statement on Facebook. I got tossed into the game when I decided to start asking questions about it,” he said.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Bob Considine confirmed to New Jersey 101.5 that McCreary was not the person who shot Pedals.
McCreary said he questioned where people were getting the information that the bipedal bear was shot.
On Monday, the DEP released pictures of a bear killed during last week's black bear hunt that is "consistent" with injuries similar to those of Pedals. Officials believe Pedals walked often on his hind legs because of injuries or defects to his front paws.
Considine said in a statement that the bear was brought to the Green Pond weigh station in Rockaway Township on Oct. 10 with injuries to the bear's right-front and left-front paws. The adult male bear weighed 333 pounds.
However, the DEP said, Pedals was never tagged and no DNA samples were ever taken, so there is no way to verify whether the bear in the photos is, in fact, Pedals.
"Bears with a variety of injuries are occasionally brought to weigh stations and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife has no way of conclusively verifying the identity of any bear that has not been previously tagged or had a DNA sample previously taken. However, 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," Considine said.
The DEP has also said it won't be releasing the name of any hunters.
McCreary said ever since the rumors began spreading he and his family have received death threats from people who were led to believe that he shot the beloved bear. He's even had people threaten to burn his business to the ground and hold a protest later this month outside the establishment, he said.
He maintains, however, that he never shot the bear or bragged about it as Facebook commenters have alleged. He said the DEP can verify the fact that he has never tagged a bear in the state.
“My name got thrown into the mix because I started asking questions and apparently people didn’t like the questions and made assumptions on Facebook posts that I shot this bear, and that was allowed to go on for hours,” he said.
The hunter also said a moderator blocked him from a Pedals Facebook page, and once people began to circulate pictures of him, he asked the moderator to send his photo to the person who claimed to overhear a hunter brag about the kill. He said the moderator's source, however, was unable to confirm that he was the same person who claimed to have shot pedals. That page has since been taken down.
“It’s all hearsay, this whole thing," he said. "Animal activists propagate lies to push an agenda."
McCreary said he has no problem with the people who ran the Pedals Facebook page or their goal of trying to protect the bear, but he has concerns about the threats being made against him, his wife and children. The hunter said there were similar concerns last year during the annual black bear hunt, when Pedals hadn't been seen and many wondered if the animal had been shot.
New Jersey's October black bear hunt for archery and muzzleloader ended on Saturday with a total of 562 bears killed in Sussex, Warren, Passaic, Morris and Hunterdon counties. Considine said the DEP does not release the names of any hunters.
According to Considine, while people have developed an emotional attachment to Pedals, people need to remembered that bears are still wildlife and even injured bears can be dangerous.
"It is important to recognize that all black bears are wildlife. They are not pets. They are capable of doing damage, even in a compromised state," Considine said. "Additionally, there is no practical way to protect any single bear out of the estimated 3,000 bears roaming wild in bear country."
The DEP came under the wrath of those who are against the bear hunt and wanted Pedals moved to an animal sanctuary in New York state. While not identifying Pedals by name, Considine said that when last seen, the bear appeared "active, healthy, growing and fully adapted to its condition" and that the DEP stands by its decision that Pedals "should remain in the wild and not be trapped in an enclosure."
Toniann Antonelli and Dan Alexander contributed to this report. Toniann Antonelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.