An afternoon of hiking for three scouts and their leader took a frightening turn when a black bear suddenly attacked. A stone hammer and some strategically-placed food likely saved a life.
Christopher Petronino, 50, was leading three young boy scouts on an afternoon hike December 20th at Split Rock reservoir in New Jersey. Well-versed in the rugged terrain, Petronino stopped to show the boys a bear cave—one that he had visited regularly for decades.
Almost immediately, and without warning, a black bear grabbed hold of his foot and yanked him inside. It then began biting his legs and shoulders.
“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 three scouts, ages 10 to 12, used their quick thinking, and while staying calm, dialed 911 for help. Unfamiliar with the cliffs they were traversing, they were not able to pinpoint their exact location. They did, however, start a fire in order to produce a smoke signal.
While on the phone with authorities, the boys were told to place food outside of the cave in hopes of drawing the black bear out. This plan worked, and when the bear finally emerged, a barking dog that was with the group scared the bear off.
An hour and 20 minutes after the initial 911 call was received, authorities were able to reach Petronino and he was airlifted to Morristown Medical Center. His injuries were not considered serious and he was released late that night.
The scouts from Troop 69 are being commended for likely saving Petronino’s life.
State wildlife officials are of the belief that the bear was merely protecting its hibernation location and there are no plans to try to capture the animal.