A young Boy Scout had a close encounter with a bear last weekend at New York’s Harriman State Park, about 30 miles away from New York City. Twelve-year-old Henry Ayers was on a camping trip, sleeping out under the stars with the rest of his scout troop, when he was suddenly startled awake. Opening his eyes sometime after midnight, the boy realized that one of his legs was caught in a bear’s jaws.
“It was absolutely crazy!” Ayers told NBC4 News. “I mainly sat up and I screamed! There was a giant bear leaning right over me. So I screamed and I kicked at it, and it wandered back a little.”
Naturally, his screams woke up the rest of the group, which then moved over to a nearby picnic shelter to try to sleep for the rest of the night. The curious bear had run back into the woods, but it wasn’t scared off for long. It returned hours later searching the area for food again.
Scout Master Diana Nicols explained to the local news channel that the troop from Cooperstown had taken precautions by making sure to hang all their food out of reach. But black bears are notoriously skilled tree-climbers, and when she awoke around 4 a.m. to see it in camp a second time, the bear had almost reached one of the food bags. She yelled and hazed the bear again, sending it scampering off.
Nicols and the troop went on their scheduled hike the following day after they notified park officials about the incident.
Officials found the bear soon after and euthanized it. According to the state’s Black Bear Response Manual, any bear that attacks, injures, or acts aggressively toward a person is considered a Class 1 bear and a threat to human health and safety.
“Individual bears in this class should be immediately euthanized,” the manual clarifies.
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Ayers told the local news that he doesn’t blame the bear for coming into the camp and associating them with human food. “It was just, you know, being a bear,” he said.
Fortunately, the boy was not seriously injured during the encounter, as the bear didn’t bite him very hard and quickly let go when the boy kicked. Ayers did have some scratches on his leg—along with one heck of a story to tell—but he said the experience won’t keep him from going camping again soon.
“I am not scared of camping anymore!” he said. “And I’m not scared of bears.”
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