Pedals, the adorable black bear from New Jersey who walked on his hind legs straight into our hearts, was killed by a hunter over the weekend, according to officials at the New Jersey Department of Environment Protection.
The announcement came on Monday, after the department posted photos of what appeared to be Pedals strung up by a chain, though conclusively identifying the bear has proved challenging since Pedals had never been tagged or had a DNA sample taken.
"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," department spokesman Bob Considine told Liam Stack at The New York Times.
In case you missed it, Pedals became internet famous about two years ago after videos started making the rounds of him walking upright – looking very much like a human in a bear suit – through backyards in Rockaway Township, New Jersey.
While it’s not uncommon for bears to walk occasionally on their hind legs, Pedals was actually a special case, because he'd injured his front paws so bad – possibly from a car crash – that he couldn’t use them to walk at all
Sadly, officials report that a hunter recently "harvested" Pedals, ending his life and causing internet outrage in the process.
According to Debbie Encalada at Complex, some are claiming that the bear’s death was more like an assassination than it was a mere hunting coincidence, citing a Facebook post from late August where a hunter boasted that he would be the one to 'execute' Pedals.
"I can't wait for the October hunt here in [New Jersey] hopefully a HUNTER OR HUNTERS CAN put me out of YOUR misery," the post read, with the hunter writing from Pedals’ perspective, according to Encalada.
"The hunter who has wanted him dead for nearly three years had the satisfaction of putting an arrow through him, bragging at the station. The very place where they weighed him, examined his legs, confirmed it was 'the bi-pedal.' Where there were two biologists on hand taking many, many pictures."
While many other Facebook pages have popped up to memorialise Pedals and call for action over his death, officials maintain that Pedals was a wild black bear just like any other, even if his death has triggered an emotional response from fans.
"While many have developed an emotional attachment to the upright bear, it is important to recognise that all black bears are wildlife," Considine told The New York Times. "They are not pets. They are capable of doing damage, even in a compromised state."
Black bear populations are on the rise in New Jersey, where citizens have now reported bear sightings in all 21 of the state's counties. Reports even indicate that the state has more bears per square mile than anywhere else in North America.
Because of this, annual hunting began in 2010 to help control the population, though this was first year that hunters were allowed to use bow and arrows.
While Pedals' death sticks out the most, it’s important to realise that 561 other bears were killed last week alone in New Jersey by hunters.
Pedals joins a growing list of famed animals to be killed recently, such as Harambe the gorilla and Cecil the lion, but for now there's no word if any action, like a hunting ban, will come from his death.
Check out more videos below to see Pedals in action: