ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP - State and local officials say a bear that attacked a Boy Scout leader over the weekend will not be euthanized following the attack.
At a news conference held Monday, Department of Environmental Officials said that the bear was not aggressive and was simply protecting its den.
Boy Scout master Christopher Petronino, of Boonton, told investigators that he wanted to show his son and two other scouts a small cave at the Splitrock Reservoir that he has known about for decades. It was not an official Boy Scouts trip.
Petronino says that he was at the cave a few weeks ago, but never saw a bear. Officials say that the cave, which is near the northern end of Buck Mountain and southeast of Lake Winnebago, has a small opening and drops straight down. They say the back of the cave cannot be seen from the opening and that is most likely where the bear was inside the cave.
When Petronino entered the cave, the bear pulled him down and bit and clawed his head, shoulders and legs. He reportedly tried to fight the bear off with a rock hammer and then played dead by curling up and putting his sweatshirt over his head.
The three scouts, who are between 12 and 14 years old, never entered the cave. At first Petronino told them to put bananas and nuts at the mouth of the cave in an attempt to lure the bear out. The scouts then spent nearly an hour with police trying to direct them to the cave. Officials believe the bear left the cave on its own.
Officials say that they are impressed with how the scouts handled the situation.
Petronino was taken by a state police helicopter to Morristown Memorial Hospital for treatment. He is expected to be OK.
DEP officials warn New Jersey residents that they do not recommend people play dead or try to lure a bear away with food. They also say that black bears do not go into complete winter hibernation and can be active year-round.