The legend of the N.C. State University bear already is fading, and one of the year’s strangest criminal cases may never close.
New students arriving for their first day on Wednesday perhaps won’t have heard about the mysterious ursine that for a couple of hours last spring captivated the school and drew national media attention.
They may even sit on the campus bench where the black bear’s corpse appeared one April morning, its 200-odd-pound frame lounging in repose.
The legal threats in those first days must have seemed ominous for the bear prank perpetrator, or perpetrators. State officials threatened thousands of dollars in fines and potential felony charges, promising an investigation.
A necropsy showed the bear likely had died as roadkill, rather than as a victim of off-season hunting – which cut back the seriousness of the potential punishment – but state and university investigators pressed onward.
The N.C Wildlife Resources Commission led the investigation, canvassing for witnesses and evidence while university police reviewed security footage.
Their search led them to interview multiple people, based partially on some social-media sleuthing.
The inquiry included “everything from people on social media making statements, to persons who would have been en route in an area where bears had been the victim of vehicle collisions,” said Wildlife Resources Commission spokesman Geoff Cantrell.
“Multiple leads were followed up upon, but there was not adequate evidence for charges,” Cantrell said.
Investigators never found the vehicle used to bring the bear to campus, he said. The review of surveillance video showed “no indication” as to the vehicle’s type or other information about it, Cantrell said.
The bear apparently was incinerated or rendered after the necropsy, according to state officials.
If brought to trial, the case could include a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully transporting a bear, punishable by a $2,000 fine, and a felony charge related to mutilation of the corpse.
“If somebody does want to confess, or turn in a friend, they can call our 800 number,” Cantrell said hopefully. That number is 1-800-662-7137.
“We’ve moved on to some other pressing issues, but we do consider it an open case,” he said.
The last person to eulogize the unfortunate ursine, at least on social media, was Julius Hodge, NCSU alumnus and former NBA player.
“#tbt” – that’s Throwback Thursday – “#ncsubear,” he tweeted this month.