Trio of Boy Scouts Help Mauled Scoutmaster Escape Bear Attack

A trio of Boy Scouts and their dog helped their scoutmaster escape the clutches of a black bear that attacked him Sunday in a cave in New Jersey.

The scoutmaster, 50-year-old Christopher Petronino, was taken by state police helicopter to a local hospital with bites to his leg and shoulders, said Bob Considine, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Information about his condition wasn't available.

The three Scouts, one of whom was Petronino's son, weren't harmed during the attack, officials said.

Petronino told state DEP officials after the attack that he had wanted to show his Scouts a small cave near Split Rock Reservoir in Rockaway, a borough in Morris County. He said he has known of the cave since the early 1980s and had never encountered a bear there.

Petronino said he walked up a rocky hillside and as he began to enter the cave, the bear grabbed his foot and pulled him deeper inside. The bear then bit his leg and both shoulders, he said.

Petronino said he struck the bear twice in the head with a rock hammer and then pulled his sweatshirt over his head and curled into a fetal position. He said he shouted to the Scouts to leave the area and get help.

The Scouts contacted a 911 operator on Petronino's cellphone, but were unable to give the dispatcher specific information about their location.

Meanwhile, the bear eyed Petronino in the cave. The scoutmaster said he kept his back to the beast and could hear it "huffing."

He shouted to the Scouts to toss any food they had at the mouth of the cave.

The bear eventually lumbered out. When it did, one of the Scouts' dog barked and snarled at the bear, who then ran up the hillside, the Scouts said.

Petronino said he scampered out of the cave as soon as he heard the bear leave. He then used the cellphone to provide the police dispatcher a better description of their location.

Area police firefighters and a state police helicopter had been searching for the Scouts and were able to locate them using the GPS coordinates of the cellphone.

Officials estimated that one hour and 20 minutes had elapsed between the Scouts' 911 call and Petronino's call.

The attack occurred a day after the end of the state's extended bear hunting season. Hunters killed 504 bears during the season, according to state records.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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