BRIDGEWATER - The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says that the man accused on social media of killing a popular New Jersey bear is innocent.
The DEP released a statement this week excluding Thomas McCreary as the hunter who killed Pedals the bipedal bear. The agency says its policy is not to reveal the names of hunters, but made a statement about McCreary out of concern for his safety.
As word got out that the beloved bear was likely killed in New Jersey’s expanded bear hunt, animal rights activists began identifying McCreary online as the hunter.
McCreary tells News 12 New Jersey that the backlash started after he got into an argument online with activists in which he questioned if Pedals had been killed in the hunt. McCreary’s phone number and address was published online as well.
He says that’s when the threats started.
“You better watch your back. We're going to come shoot up your bar. We're going to fire bomb your house. We're going to rape your wife and children,” McCreary says.
Opponents of the bear hunt say that the online comments may be harsh, but McCreary should have shut down speculation early on.
“I wouldn't blame the entire activist community. I would say there are individual activists who jumped to a conclusion because McCreary would not deny that he had killed Pedals,” says anti-hunting activist Doris Lin.
“I’m not the only hunter ever in the state of New Jersey to be harassed by an anti-hunter,” McCreary says. “I mean, these people … they're out of control."
McCreary also says that while he does have a hunting license, he did not participate in the bear hunt this year.
DEP officials say 562 bears were harvested during last week’s expanded bear hunt. A New Jersey Senate Committee just advanced legislation aimed at stopping the hunt in the future.