Bear mauls Boy Scout leader who entered cave near New Jersey reservoir; scouts …

20 Jan 2016 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bear attacks Boy Scout leader who entered Rockaway cave, authorities say.

A hibernating bear mauled a Boy Scout leader as he entered a cave near a New Jersey reservoir during his troop’s Sunday afternoon hike, authorities said. Christopher Petronino, 50, and the scouts were hiking at Split Rock Reservoir Sunday afternoon when he stopped to show the boys a cave, reported. The unidentified man was airlifted to Morristown Memorial Hospital with what authorities described as non-life threatening injuries, Rockaway police said in a statement. Considine said that after hitting the bear twice in the head with the rock hammer, Petronino “pulled his sweatshirt over his head and curled into the fetal position. The group had set out to hike on the trails that cover the 625-acre wilderness, and they came along the cave, which Petronino told investigators he had known about since the 1980s.

Police were called to the scene around 12:26 p.m., when one of the scouts reported that the man had been attacked after entering a cave off one of the hiking trails surrounding the Splitrock Reservoir. The bear grabbed Petronino’s foot and knocked him to the ground as he fought back and yelled at three of his young scouts to find help as the bear bit his leg and shoulders.

He yelled to the scouts, who were outside the cave, to leave and go get help.” The spokesman said the young scouts called authorities, who tracked the group’s coordinates on a cell phone and dispatched a helicopter in the hope of finding them. Local officers and firefighters were joined by a state police helicopter to search the 625-acre area straddling the Rockaway-Kinnelon border, using signals from a scout’s cell phone to locate the group, according to police. Rockaway Mayor Michael Dachisen said the three scouts were not injured during the incident, and were taken to township police headquarters before being released to family members.

The bear has yet to be captured, though representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection will be setting traps in an attempt to locate it, the chief added. He saw no ear tags or collars on the animal, and the state – which recently extended an annual bear hunt to help control the species’ growing numbers in North Jersey – said they had no reason to consider it particularly dangerous. “Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers and the Wildlife Control Unit believe the bear was protecting its hibernation location and they do not, at this point, consider the bear to be a Category I bear,” said Considine. The attack comes amid lingering debate over how to handle the state’s bear population, spurred by the four-day extension of an annual hunt for the animals across North Jersey. DEP officials and other proponents argue that the steps are necessary to counter increased interactions between humans and the species — including the state’s first fatal bear attack in 150 years in 2014 – while animal rights and conservation activists contend that it is both inhumane and ineffective. Sierra Club, said many people do not know how to back away from a bear slowly, which makes the bear think the people are prey. “The day after the hunt, there’s a bear-human incident, so it just shows that the whole purpose of the hunt was a failure — that it’s really [more] about having a trophy hunt than it is about managing bears,” Tittel said. “This encounter in all likelihood occurred because someone unwittingly entered a bear’s hibernation location,” Considine said in an email. “It had nothing to do with the bear hunt.

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