N.J. police: ‘We have a gentleman in the cave with a bear’

A boy scout leader was attacked by a bear in New Jersey.

ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Boy Scout leader was injured during an encounter with a bear in northern New Jersey, but three Scouts with him were unharmed, officials said.

Rockaway Township Mayor Michael Dachisen saidthe attack occurred around noon Sunday at Split Rock Reservoir in the Morris County community.

Scout leader Christopher Petronino, 50, of Boonton, was attacked by a black bear after entering a cave, 1010 WINS reported. Petronino told the Department of Environmental Protection that he wanted to show the scouts the cave, which he had known about since the 1980s. According to the DEP, Petronino had never encountered a bear there before.

After entering the cave, a black bear grabbed Petronino’s foot and bit him on the leg, his right shoulder and his arm, officials said. According to officials, Petronino hit the bear twice with a rock hammer before assuming a fetal position and calling to the scouts for help.

The scouts then called 911, prompting a large-scale search by environmental officials for the exact location of the cave, officials said.

After several hours of searching, the injured Boy Scout leader, bleeding from his head, neck and arm, was finally taken out on a stretcher and put into a medivac helicopter.

Petronino was flown to the emergency room a Morristown Medical Center for treatment of what were called non life-threatening injuries, CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported. He has since been released.

The three Scouts were rescued by searchers.

It’s not clear what prompted the attack, which is under investigation by the state’s Environmental Protection Department, WCBS 880’s Stephanie Colombini reported. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement that the bear may have been trying to hibernate in the cave.

According to the Division of Fish and Wildlife, the cave has been empty since the incident occurred, and that non-lethal traps have been set up around the location in hopes of observing the bear.

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