Boonton Boy Scout leader fought off bear attack with hammer, officials say

20 Jan 2016 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bear attacks Boy Scout leader in New Jersey reservoir, but scouts unharmed.

A Boy Scout troop leader was attacked and injured by a bear on Sunday afternoon during a hike at Split Rock Reservoir in Rockaway Township, N.J., officials said.The Boy Scout leader — who suffered non-life-threatening injuries — was taken by helicopter for medical treatment, DEP spokesman Bob Considine confirmed. The troop leader, Christopher Petronino, 50, of Boonton, N.J., was airlifted to a hospital, where he was treated for bites and scratches on his scalp and legs, Bob Considine, the director of press operations for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said. 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. As he dipped into a small crevasse that led to the cave, the bear grabbed his foot and pulled him inside, biting his leg, right shoulder and left shoulder before fighting back, according to Considine. “Petronino struck the bear twice in the head with a rock hammer. 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.

As they waited, Petronino – still inside the cave and able to hear the bear “huffing” – instructed the children to place any food they had outside the cave, drawing the animal out, Considine said. 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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