A walking bear, which has been nicknamed both “Vinnie” and “Pedals,” has been seen in the area around Oak Ridge, New Jersey, over the past year-and-a-half, and may be getting a new home, reports NBC.
Residents of the New Jersey community have become concerned that the bear appears skinny and has not gained enough fat to make it through the coming winter. In response, a GoFundMe campaign and an online petition have been started to fund the bear’s possible relocation and to lobby the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to either help capture the bear, or at least allow its relocation.
“He was exhausted,” Oak Ridge resident Sabrina Pugsley, who started the GoFundMe campaign, was quoted about the bear. “It broke my heart seeing him in person and in that condition.”
ABC has reported that the bear is now about 4-years-old and weighed close to 250 pounds in the summer of 2014. The bear is suspected to have one broken and one missing front paw, possibly the result of an encounter with a car. His condition is thought to be deteriorating and he has been seen “foaming at the mouth.” The bear is said to have never made a nuisance of itself.
“I think he walks better than you,” one New Jersey resident can be heard joking to a friend in a video of the bear.
“Strongly and smoothly,” is how the bear’s walking style has been described.
The online campaign to relocate the New Jersey walking bear has raised over $19,500, more than the original $15,000 goal, and the petition has garnered 1,691 signatures.
A wildlife refuge in Orange County, New York, the Orphaned Wildlife Center, has agreed to accept the bear, but the cost to build an enclosure and care for him is quoted at running near $18,000. The center has stated that it has been talking with New Jersey state wildlife officials about the bear’s weight and its possible relocation.
“Fish and Wildlife bear biologists believe it is best not to intervene or make attempts to capture this bear,” The New Jersey wildlife division stated in a Facebook post. “If the condition and health of the bear clearly deteriorates, then biologists from the Division of Fish and Wildlife will respond accordingly.”
Representatives of the Orphaned Wildlife Center said in a Facebook post that they don’t believe the bear has enough weight to survive the winter and that its regular appearances in populated areas is not “normal or natural.”
Black bear sightings are a common occurrence in New Jersey neighborhoods and the state’s bear population is reported to have increased since the 1980s, according to the New Jersey Department of Wildlife Protection. Bears are often attracted to garbage cans and bins, and have been seen in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
Keeping garbage and other food sources out of the sight, and smell, of bears is the best defense against keeping them out of close range with humans.
This past weekend “potentially aggressive” black bears were encountered by visitors to New Jersey in Ramapo Mountain State Park. A man hiking in the park was reported to have used bear spray to ward off an attack from a bear that refused to leave him until he reached a roadway. Earlier that same day, a group of women hikers were followed by a bear that broke off its pursuit when they happened upon another hiker and his dog, as reported by New York Magazine.