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WEST MILFORD, New Jersey (AP) — New Jersey wildlife officials said there's been a sighting of a bear that walks upright on its two hind legs, and has become a social media darling.
Fans of the bipedal bear nicknamed Pedals had grown concerned when the animal had not been seen for several weeks.
Pedals apparently has an injured leg or paw that doesn't allow it to walk comfortably on all fours, experts say.
But officials tell NJ.com that a resident saw Pedals in West Milford on Dec. 21 and said the bear appeared to be in good health. The caller estimated Pedals weighs roughly 350 pounds (160 kilograms).
The bear first gained fame after it was spotted last year ambling around neighborhoods and was caught on videos that were posted on social media and played on national television. Since then, animal activists have voiced concern that the bear's health has declined and they fear it might not survive a harsh winter. They also doubt the bear can run, climb or defend itself, or even eat properly.
Supporters hope Pedals can be moved to a sanctuary in New York state, but New Jersey officials have said they won't allow the bear to be transported out of state. They have said they want to examine the bear before making any decisions about it, and they don't plan to try to capture the animal.
"As we've been saying all along, the bear seems to be doing fine on its own," Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna said. "This is really good news for the bear and all the people following his travels.
"This sighting is really encouraging," Hajna added. "By virtue of the fact that the bear hasn't been seen for some time indicates to us that he has been out in the woods foraging. There are plenty of tree nuts available. We now have a basis to determine the bear is OK. He may be heading into his denning period now."
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