Boy Scout suffers minor injuries in bear encounter at NY campsite

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Monday, May 23, 2022
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A 12-year-old Boy Scout suffered minor injuries and needed a rabies shot following a black bear attack at a campsite in New York. Lauren Glassberg has more for Eyewitness News.

HARRIMAN STATE PARK, New York (WABC) -- A 12-year-old Boy Scout suffered minor injuries and needed rabies shots following a black bear attack at a campsite in New York.

It happened in the overnight hours of Sunday, May 1, at the Tom Jones Shelter in Harriman State Park and involved a Boy Scout Troop from Cooperstown.

"I felt a really quick, sharp sensation, a pain in my leg," the boy, Henry Ayers, said. "I look up, and it was a giant bear. I thought it was a nightmare. It was honestly crazy I didn't think I was awake."

The bear bit right through his sleeping bag, and he started yelling -- as did some of his fellow scouts -- and the bear backed off.

The Scoutmaster, Diana Nicols, posted about the incident on Facebook.

"The Scout is okay- minor abrasions and some good contusions, and an amazing story," she wrote. "This kid is pretty spectacular."

She said the bear was a young adult looking for food that wandered into their site, but that they had properly stowed their supplies.

The scouts, including Ayers, completed their hike the next day as planned, but He has received nine rabies shots since the bite.

"I made a mistake," Ayers said. "I left some of my food in my bag and spilled some on my leg and it was also other people that left a lot of trash around."

Nichols said the bear came back into camp a few times, which is when she took the video, but it never got close to humans again.

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The camping area and shelter was temporarily closed while the Parks Department and the Department of Environmental Conservation deal with the issue.

"The bear's dangerous behavior demonstrated habituation to human presence, persistence seeking food near humans, and a clear threat to human safety," officials said in a joint statement.

On May 5, U.S. Department of Agriculture staff working with State Parks and DEC captured and humanely euthanized the bear following appropriate protocols.

Ayers will get a special bear patch to add to his uniform, and his mom says he's already planning his next camping adventure.

"They learned a lot of respect for nature," Nicols said. "I think the kids who saw this happen know why it happened. They know bears that do what bears do."

The DEC reminds the public that while bear attacks on people are extremely rare, these are large, powerful wild animals, and interactions with them must be avoided for public safety and the well-being of the animals.

The number one tip is to never feed bears, but the DEC offers the following additional advice:

--Keep your campsite as clean as possible. Clean up immediately after all meals.

--Keep grills, pots, pans, cooking utensils and wash basins clean when not in use.

--Do not leave food or coolers out at any time. Store them in the trunk of your car or the cab of your truck, and keep the windows shut and the coolers out of sight.

--Never keep food, coolers or scented items in your tent, and do not wear clothing that was worn while preparing or eating meals to bed.

--Treat all toiletries as food items. Toiletry products are heavily-scented and are as attractive to bears as actual food.

--Do not put grease, garbage, plastic diapers, cans, bottles or other refuse into the fireplace. These items do not properly burn and will attract bears with their odors.

If a bear approaches:

--Use noise, including yelling, clapping or banging pots

--Stay calm, walk slowly and speak in a loud, calm voice. Or you can leave slowly by cautiously backing away from the bear. Do not run from it.

--Do not approach, surround or corner a bear, run from a bear, or throw your backpack or food bag at an approaching bear.

--If a bear charges you, stand your ground, and if you have packed bear spray, dispense it directly at the bear. You should make sure you know how to do that properly before leaving on your trip.

--Use the buddy system. Multiple people together appear to be a greater threat to a bear, so do not separate.

--A bear standing on its hind legs is not a prelude to an attack. Bears do that to get a better view and smell of their surroundings.

--Avoid direct eye contact, which may be perceived by a bear as a challenge.

--The bear may utter a series of huffs, make popping jaw sounds by snapping its jaws and swat the ground. These are warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away, avoid direct eye contact, and do not run.

--Black bears will sometimes "bluff charge" when cornered, threatened, or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, then slowly back away and do not run.

--If the bear does not leave, move to a secure area.

--Families who live in areas frequented by black bears should have a "Bear Plan" in place for children, with an escape route and planned use of whistles and air horns.

--Use certified bear-resistant garbage containers and keep the container outdoors if you live in an area frequented by black bears. Certified bear-resistant trash containers have passed a formal testing procedure and are proven to keep bears out. Certified containers offer the best protection.

RELATED | Woman in hospital after being mauled by bear while checking her mail

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