The debate started in New Jersey, but social media has turned it international.
The Garden State made national news in June when Pedals, a bipedal bear, was filmed and posted walking through an Oak Ridge, New Jersey, backyard.
As with most viral videos, Pedals was a huge hit for several weeks and even has a fan page on Facebook. However, everyone didn’t enjoy the video of Pedals, as shown by the recently sparked debate of if the American black bear should be put into a wildlife sanctuary in New York State.
The New York Times reports a group has petitioned on behalf of the bear and received 309,000 signatures, which come from places as varied as Indiana and Italy. Supporters have also raised more than $25,000 to pay for a new enclosure at the planned sanctuary.
The group created a Facebook page titled “Pedals The Injured Bipedal Bear,” where information is spread amongst members. The page features more than 50 pictures of the black bear and many comments of concern for his health.
The group believes Pedals walks on only his hind legs because he is disabled and cannot use his front legs.
Group member Cynthia Cohen, of Livermore, California, commented that she emailed a New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife representative and told him, “Like many disabled people, he needs special measures to cope with daily existence. The fact that he approaches areas populated with humans is a recipe for disaster. He might be hurt by a car or police or human with a gun. He might hurt a child or pet. It is important to do something before an accident happens.”
Though the group seems 100-percent sure Pedals is living in pain, the other side of the debate couldn’t disagree more.
The New York Times reports state officials posted an explanation of why the black bear walks bipedal after June’s video started making rounds.
“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 post from state officials said. “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.”
The Times reports that despite the debate, state officials are happy with the change of pace of Pedals putting wildlife in New Jersey on the global map.
“It’s very compelling,” Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, told The Times. “This is a very resilient bear. He’s really captured the attention and hearts of a lot of people.”