Come to find out the big bear was tame, but the hunter was perfectly legal in killing him. I love how the people said he was totally harmless. Never are they totally harmless people!
Leroy Lewis fed Bozo, a 17-year-old bear, human food since it was a cub. The 875-pound bear was killed by hunters last Monday in Bushkill, sparking a week of debate among hunters, animal lovers and Lewis' friends.
For some, the one-mile strip of Route 209 in Bushkill might just be the road that leads to Bushkill Falls, a popular tourist spot. But for others, especially some locals, it's an area where, on any given night, a docile and tame 875-pound bear could have been spotted eating from a dumpster that belongs to a restaurant on the strip.
This area in Bushkill is also home to a resort, where the man responsible for taming that big bear once worked, and where he earned a reputation for his devotion to the animal.
On Sunday, almost a week after the 17-year-old bear, known as Bozo, was legally killed by hunters, people who work on this strip said that the animal's death marked the end of a unique era and that Bozo's death was not only a blow to the man who tamed and befriended it, but also to them.
"It's just devastating," said John Sullivan, a desk clerk at Fernwood Resort, where Leroy Lewis, 71, worked for decades as a groundskeeper and where he became known as the guy who befriended and helped raise a bear.
Lewis fed the bear pies, doughnuts and other human foods since it had been a cub. Bozo subsequently became used to being in the presence of humans, letting humans pet it. Lewis was known to show staff at the resort pictures of Bozo as it grew.
"We were all stunned by the news," Sullivan said.
Last Monday, which was the opening day of the bear hunting archery season, David Price of Cresco and a few of his relatives came across the bear in the woods, not far from Fernwood Resort.
The hunters, who, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, were within their rights to hunt the bear — shot it dead, with Price's arrow being the fatal blow.
"Bozo was, like, our mascot," said Christine Branigan, a waitress at Petrizzo's, an Italian restaurant next to the Fernwood Resort. Petrizzo's was one of Bozo's favorite haunts; he would often go there and eat leftovers that were placed in an area out back.
Branigan said that on the night before Bozo was killed, he rapped on the back door of the restaurant. He was hungry and employees fed him ice cream.
"When I first started working here, I was like, 'what the ...' the first time I saw the bear out back," said Angel Velez, another employee at Petrizzo's. "But after people told me, 'No, it's cool, he's harmless,' it became a normal way of life."
Many at Petrizzo's said that on the morning after the bear was shot, Lewis, who lives in a mobile home nearby, came into the restaurant's bar. About 10 other locals all gathered round Lewis, sharing their shock and offering condolences.
Although Lewis may have loved the bear, the game commission in October fined him for feeding Bozo, which is not allowed. Bears could become more aggressive if their human-food supply is cut off, some say. Also, a bear that's accustomed to being fed by people might forget how to forage properly and could die if its human food source dries up. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, about 3,500 bears were killed in 2009. In contrast, about 309,000 deer were bagged.
Still, Lewis said that he was devastated when he heard the news of Bozo's death and he was reported to have wept when he talked about his perished friend.
In Bushkill on Sunday, under gray skies and in the cold, many said that with Bozo gone, things felt different.
"They (Bozo and Lewis) were really like a team," said John Clark, who was working across the street from the Fernwood Resort and Petrizzo's, at a stable where horses could be rented for the day.
Clark knew both Bozo and Lewis. He said that he, too, couldn't believe the news when he heard it. "There is going to be something missing around here," he said.
The SoCal Bowhunter Blog - www.SoCalBowhunter.com
PSE Archery Blogging Staff - PSE Blog
People are idiots! Harmless??? I wonder what would happen if they didnt feed him on time. Maybe the hunters who killed him will donate the Rug to the resort. lol
- Team DIY
Spot Hogg Pro Staff, M2D Camo Pro Staff