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Bear 'attack' update: N.J. officials say kids' injuries were not caused by animal

Published: Thursday, August 04, 2011, 7:05 PM     Updated: Friday, August 05, 2011, 2:29 PM
Star-Ledger Staff
New-Jersey-Bear-Attack-Campground.jpgCampsites in Stokes State Park in Sussex County were empty by late Wednesday afternoon as word spread that two boys were injured that morning in a bear attack while camping along the Appalachian Trail. Officials today, however, said the boys' injuries were not caused by a bear.

FRANKFORD — Remember that bear we wrote about in today’s paper? The one that went on such a rampage in Stokes State Forest that it swiped and scarred two youngsters while they were sleeping in their tents?

Well, 24 hours later, the story's changed a little.

Turns out, wildlife authorities revealed today, that upon further review, the two boys were not injured by the animal at all. The marks on their foot and shoulder were scars from an old scrape and a blister. Startled camp counselors made the wrong assumption during all the ruckus.

"It appears that the injuries were not from the attack," said Larry Herrighty, assistant director of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. "The scratches and the abrasions were not caused by a bear — they were not fresh wounds."

The bear invaded the camp where a group of nine inner city boys and two counselors were sleeping at about 4:30 in the morning Wednesday. It pulled at a sleeping bag and swiped at a tent and knocked it down, Herrighty said. The counselors and their charges clapped, blew a whistle and sang and shouted, and finally an conservation officer shot the animal in the neck, driving it away.

Shortly after the encounter, counselors spotted marks on the foot and shoulder of the two campers — ages 11 and 12 — and told officials they had been scrapped during the incident.

Later, when the youngsters were examined at a local hospital, doctors alerted wildlife officials something was amiss with the injuries. DEP officials magnified images of the wounds on a computer screen and determined they were not fresh and not made by the bear.

Herrighty said that, in fact, the two boys never said they were struck by the bear.

And what of the bear? No mercy, apparently. Wildlife officials continued searching for the animal today, saying they still planned to shoot it because it was aggressive — a "Category One Bear," they called it.

"If we did encounter the bear, we would shoot and kill it," said Larry Ragonese, a DEP spokesman.

Department officials set snares and traps baited with bacon and a boysenberry-scented liquid spray near the Gren Anderson section of the forest where the boys had been camping, Herrighty said.

Black-Bear-Metuchen-NJ-June-2011.JPGA black bear wandering through a residential area of Metuchen took refuge in a tree for several hours in June before climbing down and fleeing.

He said officials plan to search for seven days and if there’s no activity within that time, they’ll call off the effort and assume the bear has moved on another area.

At one point during the search, Herrighty said, a wildlife officer spotted a bear in the area, but it wasn’t the same one — it hadn’t been wounded and it wasn’t the right size.

Authorities followed a blood trail from the campsite yesterday, Herrighty said, but it ended after 100 yards into a thicket. A blood sniffing dog was unable to pick up the trail after several hours, he said, because of the rainy weather conditions and the many bears in the area.

Although an officer shot the bear — thought to be a yearling about 2 years old — wildlife officials do not believe the shot was fatal, Ragonese said.

Although DEP officials do not know what precipitated the attack, Ragonese said yearlings can be cantankerous because they’re out on their own for the first time.

A biologist with DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife said yearlings are usually forced from their dens in June and by mid-summer, many are fanning out across the state in search of new places to live.

Wednesday’s incident was the first reported black bear encounter with humans in New Jersey this year, the DEP said. Aggressive attacks by black bears are infrequent, according to the agency.

By Victoria St. Martin and Richard Khavkine/The Star-Ledger

Previous coverage:

Authorities still searching for bear that hurt 2 boys in Sussex County forest

Bear attacks, injures two boys at Sussex County state forest

Boys injured by bear at campground are fine and back at camp, director says

Related topics: frankford, montague, must-see-stories

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BEFootball2009 August 05, 2011 at 9:06AM

Shot for no reason???? How about the fact that it swiped at a sleeping bag and tried to get into a tent. I am not against a bear hunt and I recognize that most black bears will never attack and the chances of it happening are slim to none. However, this is one bad bear and he deserves to be clipped. (I still think hunting is wierd but I am not opposed)

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dasgreat August 05, 2011 at 10:58AM

You're claiming something as "fact" based on a lie told by the camp counselors. The same counselors by the way who, right after the supposed "ATTACk", allowed the kids to go right back to the camp site knowing full well this "bad bear" was still in the area.

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pete2357 August 05, 2011 at 10:35PM

Your comment about allowing the kids to go back to the campsite has much to do with how informed the counselors were. The "campsite" was the Gren Anderson Shelter on the Appalachian Trail. This is not a typical camp site for the general public. It's more remote and rustic than that. But it is within sight of Sunrise Mtn Road (no trail directly leading to that road). So walking out of there to Rt 206 is a very easy/short option IF they knew that. Following the Appalachian Trail would require 3 miles of hiking south. Not a great option in the dark with panicked kids. But that raises the issue... Counselor training. It is very obvious to me (from my past experiences) that Trailblazers.org (the group) has lax training. The groups that I have met on the trail had very limited experience. And one group HAD NO ADULT LEADERS and the kids had no knowledge of safe food handling/storage relating to bears. This isn't camping at a traditional campground. The Gren Anderson Shelter has a steel bear-box for storing food, a shelter (basically a shed with three walls) and a spring. That's it. I'll bet that the bear-box was used minimally and the kids had candy bars and other food with them. This just invites a bear incident. I have no problems with an annual bear hunt. I have a lot of problems with an organization that uses the Appalachian Trail, provides no effort to maintain it, and it seems to me - barely trains it's staff and kids. I believe that this entire incident was avoidable. Trailblazers.org needs to be thoroughly investigated and forced to have it's leaders go for much more training. Either that or shut the organization down.

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Jacky_Albert_218 August 06, 2011 at 9:52AM

He is not a bad bear, he is a mere child, they said yearling. This was his first experience around City Twats in the country side. It is HIS environment before it is ours, and people need to respect that first and foremost. If they can't, then stay in the inner city.

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lmnop August 04, 2011 at 7:18PM

ok doofus then how did theyb get injured???hellooo

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warrenridgerunner August 04, 2011 at 7:25PM

Jersey City kids camping in the woods had minor injuries...? Yup, musta been the bear!

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StanHopeHopper August 05, 2011 at 12:31AM

Yeah, this is quite a unnecessary and unfortunately expected. When you have "hunters" dumping tons donuts, sweets, bagels, dog food and bacon grease baiting for bear hunts that may or may not happen for several months why wouldn't a habituated yearling see this site as anything different and cause trouble?


Check out this "How to" by our local "Master Baiters". Please see the description. The way things are being done is making things worse. But hey, it's legal...

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grmpyolfrt August 04, 2011 at 7:29PM

Curious & curiouser.

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smartypantsdance August 04, 2011 at 7:32PM

I just KNEW this was a frame up.

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meldek August 04, 2011 at 7:24PM

So someone, for some reason, is lieing.

Did the kids lie, maybe, but the adult group leaders were there and told the police that the bear attacked the kids.

why would the DEP office shoot the bear if it did not attack the kids? The answer is, he wouldn't. They are the last ones to use lethal force on bears, they always want to capture and move or just leave them be.

So, what is the most logical answer...

The original report was correct. The bear attacked and the kids received minor injuries. THEN the people running the camp, read as the people making money on this camp, flipped the hell out and changed the story to protect thier income over the well being of the kids.

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UnionRepublican August 04, 2011 at 7:30PM

"spotted marks on the foot and shoulder " seems more like as they RAN AWAY ( while the bear was coming near them, thus 'attacked' ) they fell and ran over something sharp.

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Really? August 04, 2011 at 7:54PM

That's an interesting theory but if anyone was in real fear of attacking bears, they wouldn't in good conscious lie in order to keep the camp going. Wouldn't they be at least afraid for their own lives? Have you ever been a camp counselor? YOu think it pays big bucks? Think again! You think they would not get paid if they had to camp out somewhere else?

I worked at a Day Camp in Paterson when I was a teenager. When it rained and we couldn't go on our scheduled field trips, we got sent the museum of Natural History (been there more times than I can count). We just made other plans when the situation was not ideal. It didn't stop the camp and we still got paid.

Like I said - nice theory - and one where you purport that people are so greedy over $9 an hour that they would put children's lives at risk. And if you are referring to the camp itself - I doubt that they would not get paid either. It's like renting a house - you put down the deposit, you go there and it's not like you are going to get a refund if you decide to leave early because it rained your whole week at the shore. Really?

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GoodCats August 04, 2011 at 8:05PM

meldek is right. It is a conspiracy, ranks up there with 9/11 was a US government plot and Obama was born in Africa.

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phoenix August 06, 2011 at 12:11AM

What planet do you live on? The DEP loves to go hunting. They push for a bear hunt every year and look for every excuse to use their guns.

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thrudheim6 August 06, 2011 at 12:11PM

ok phoenix, so enlighten us then as to your cost effective viable solution to keep the population in balance while at the same time having the added benefit of reducing the number of bear/human incidents as was evidenced by the 2003 & 2005 hunts.

oh and incidents are down this year also BTW.

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