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Have you heard of Pedals, the bear?

Even if the name doesn’t sound familiar, you’ve likely seen him on the Internet. Videos of him walking through suburban New Jersey only on his hind legs went viral. He even had his own Facebook page.

That page, however, published some rough news last week.

“PEDALS IS DEAD.”

In merely the latest controversy to cloud the hunting world, Pedals was most likely shot by a hunter during New Jersey’s recent archery season. The Internet is buzzing. And the hunter that flung the arrow has had plenty flung back at him.

It seems as though we can’t keep our sport out of the headlines these days. If it’s not a rich hunter taking a rare species in Africa, it’s a suburbanite shooting a handicapped bear somewhere near the Jersey turnpike.

It’s disappointing that the Garden State’s first archery bear hunt in 40 years was shrouded in such controversy. Really, though, it’s not the hunter who is to blame. It’s the folks that personified a wild animal that need to hold their heads in shame.

Normally, this is where I’d warn the anti-hunters to stop reading. They may get offended by what lies ahead. But this time, please, keep reading. I beg you. It’s the tried-and-true sportsmen who know what’s coming next. They can move on.

The way I see it, the hunt did its job. Sure, a beloved bear lost its life. Nobody is celebrating the death. But that bear was injured. He had very little use of his two front paws. That’s grave news for any wild animal.

Pedals had a truly hard time living in the wild. That’s why it spent so much of it living in a neighborhood … scrounging for trash and whatever scraps the sympathetic neighbors would hand it. But because of the way modern man has changed the wild environment, nature couldn’t do its job — a vital job.

Folks, hunting isn’t about bagging a trophy. That’s merely the mainstream, commercialized view of the sport. True hunters know it’s about managing the herd and protecting the species. It’s about helping Mother Nature accomplish what — thanks to our actions — she can no longer do on her own.

That’s why, when many species are teetering on the brink of trouble, biologists call in the hunters. Huge, deep-pocketed groups such as Pheasants Forever, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Ducks Unlimited are perfect proof. They’ve created immense natural habitat and have helped keep populations at healthy, optimal levels.

Pedals the bear wasn’t some circus-trained animal. He was wild. And he was hurt. It’s a dangerous combination. I don’t want hurt or sick animals in my backyard and neither should you.

The hunt did its job. It culled the herd and left it stronger, healthier and safer.

To personify the bear is natural. There’s no fault there. And the perseverance of the bear is to be applauded.

But Pedals didn’t care what we thought of him. He was a 333-pound wild animal that had trouble living in the world he was intended to live in.

The death is not something to celebrate. No death is. But it’s certainly not something to punish.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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