Christopher Petronino was dragged inside a cave but survived by hitting the bear with a hammer

By Tim Nudd
Updated December 21, 2015 10:35 AM

Boy Scout training doesn’t exactly prepare you for this.

Still, scoutmaster Christopher Petronino and three young scouts showed remarkable poise Sunday when Petronino found himself attacked by a bear in a New Jersey cave, reports.

Petronino, 50, who was hiking Splitrock Reservoir in Morris County with the three scouts, including his son, started to enter the cave when the bear grabbed his foot and pulled him inside, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said.

He was bitten on the leg, right shoulder and left shoulder before fighting back, hitting the bear twice in the head with a rock hammer, DEP spokesman Bob Considine said in a statement.

“He then pulled his sweatshirt over his head and curled into the fetal position,” Considine said. “He yelled to the scouts, who were outside the cave, to leave and go get help.”

The scouts called for help using a cell phone, and authorities – who deployed a state police helicopter to find them – instructed them to place food outside the cave to draw the bear out. When the bear emerged, a dog that was hiking with the scouts barked at it, and it ran off.

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Petronino then emerged and was airlifted to Morristown Medical Center for treatment. In all, he spent about 80 minutes in the cave before escaping, authorities said.

Petronino’s father, Michael Petronino, told NBC News on Monday that his son was in “bad shape” and would need to undergo several hours of surgery.

Authorities praised the three young scouts for their quick thinking as well.

“Fortunately the scouts had enough presence of mind that they were actually able, besides calling us on their cell phone, they were actually able to build a signal fire to aid the ground and aerial units,” said Rockaway Township Police Chief Martin McParland, reports WABC-TV.