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A statue of Samantha will be unveiled at the Vernon Township Municipal Building

Susan Kehoe and Samantha pose for a photo.
Susan Kehoe and Samantha pose for a photo.
Nancy Wegard

A bond between an animal and a human is special and can inspire us as well as teach us lessons about life. There are so many books, articles and movies about the friendship that animals and humans share. Susan Kehoe, who is an activist, photographer and author, who lives in bear county in New Jersey, shared a special bond with a bear that she named Samantha. When she first spotted Samantha as a cub, she thought she was a male and named her Samson. When Samson appeared a year later at her property with cubs, Kehoe and her late husband, Vinny Kehoe, who also loved Samantha, learned that Samson was a female, and Kehoe changed her name to Samantha. Kehoe knew Samantha for 31 years and wrote articles about her and also photographed her. She even posed in several photos with Samantha.

“Samantha lived till she was 31 and had a good life. She lived at Wawayanda State Park deep in the woods and always hibernated early,” Kehoe said. “She was very intelligent in never got in trouble.”

Kehoe said that Samantha was even the mascot for The Bear Group and caps with her picture were sold to help save bears in New Jersey. She said that when the hunters found out about Samantha they wanted to find her and kill her, so they had no other choice than to withdraw her as a mascot.

“Many people in bear county were inspired by Samantha and felt joy when they saw her,” Kehoe said. “Samantha was a gentle and kind soul.”

On June 29th, people will gather together at Vernon Township Municipal Building at 2:00 pm to celebrate the life of a bear that changed an entire town. After all, Samantha beat the odds. Kehoe said that bears who are hunted only reach five to six years of age, but Samantha reached old age. Kehoe hopes that this event will teach people that bears and humans can coexist peacefully. Kehoe will be touched at the ceremony in remembrance of Samantha, for Samantha was more than just a bear, she was like a member of her family.