Bruce Headley, 62, was hunting for deer on his property when he took the New Jersey state record black bear back in 2011. Now that same bear stands guard inside the Pequest Hatchery, watching over the visitor center as both a memorial and tribute to New Jersey’s wildlife.

“I’m just glad it went to a good home,” Headley told

The 829-pound bear measures six feet and 11 inches from nose to tail, making it easily the largest bear ever taken in New Jersey’s history. Headley dispatched the animal from his deer stand with a shotgun on December 5, 2011, but the true challenge came when the hunter climbed down to bring the animal home. It took Headley three hours and the help of friends to carry the bear out on an ATV.

“I would have traded getting two bucks instead of the bear,” Headley, who hunts for deer every year to feed his family, told The Daily Record.

The bear was eventually given to taxidermist George Dante, who worked alongside wildlife biologists to create the mount for Pequest Hatchery. Depicted with one paw on a stone and coming out of a swamp, Pequest officials said the bear will make an excellent addition to the hatchery’s animal displays. For Headley, the bear serves as a memorial for his late son. On the base of the mount a plaque reads “In memory of Joel Warren Headley. Forever young.”

“This is not just for Joel’s memory but for all the kids who get consumed by drugs,” Headley told the Record. “I also donated the bear because after 50 years of hunting and enjoying the outdoors, I wanted to give back. I thought Pequest would be the best place for him because so many people would see it and I want people to realize what kind of wildlife we have in New Jersey.”

The donation comes as a morale boost to the Pequest Hatchery, which last month lost about 114,000 trout to bacterial disease.

Image courtesy New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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2 thoughts on “New Jersey Hunter Donates Record Black Bear to State Fishery

  1. The state of New Jersey tax payers pay to have a beautiful black bear stuffed and mounted? Do they not have better things to spend money on besides glorifying the trophies of hunters? Educational?? How does this bear look any different to a child (or adult, for that matter) than any other large stuffed bear? Sad that Mr Headley thinks he is some type of philanthropist.

  2. What an article – a hunter goes for deer but just happens to see a big black bear and decides to kill it. Because you just have to kill something since your outside? This beautiful bear was unnecessarily killed and removed from the gene pool. And state tax payers paid to stuff him?? Please. Quite frankly, if you feel dead animals should be displayed- please don’t bother to make them look alive. Your bullet took care if that,

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