ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — A Boy Scout leader who was pulled into a cave by a bear in northern New Jersey beat off the animal with a rock hammer while the three young Scouts with him called for help.
Christopher Petronino, 50, and the scouts were hiking at Split Rock Reservoir Sunday afternoon when he stopped to show the boys a cave, N.J.com reported. He dipped into a small crevasse leading to it and the bear grabbed him by the foot and yanked him inside. It began biting his legs and shoulders and Petronino fought it off, the website said.
“Petronino struck the bear twice in the head with a rock hammer. He then pulled his sweatshirt over his head and curled into the fetal position,” Bob Considine, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said in a statement. “He yelled to the scouts, who were outside the cave, to leave and go get help.”
The boys used a cell phone to call authorities, who told them to place any food they had outside the cave to lure the bear away from Petronino. When it emerged, a dog that had come along with the group began barking and the bear ran up a nearby hillside.
Considine said the scout leader spent about 80 minutes inside the cave before escaping. He was airlifted to Morristown Medical Center where his wounds were treated. The scouts, from a Boonton-based troop, were released to their parents.
Petronino told authorities he’d visited the cave regularly for decades and had never seen a bear.
Considine said state wildlife officials believe the bear was protecting its hibernation location. They have placed traps around the area where the attack occurred and hope to capture it.
Hunters in New Jersey killed 510 bears during the state’s extended black bear hunt, which ended Saturday. Fifty-eight were harvested in Morris County, where Split Rock Reservoir is located.