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Boy Scout woken by bear biting his leg at National Park campsite

Black bear in shallow water
(Image credit: Getty)

A Boy Scout had a narrow escape on a camping trip after waking to find a black bear with its jaws around his leg. The boy and his scout troop were camping in Harriman State Park, New York, when the attack happened.

Black bears are typically more timid than grizzlies, and more likely to run away when they encounter a human, but they can approach campsites in search of food. The troop had followed precautions and hung their provisions well out of reach, but the animal was still curious.

"It moved my friend John, and then it moved me – but instead of grabbing my sleeping bag it grabbed my leg and it bit me." 12-year-old Henry Ayers told NBC4 News (opens in new tab). "It was absolutely crazy! I mainly sat up and I screamed! There was a giant bear leaning right over me. I screamed and I kicked at it and it wandered back a little."

Ayers escaped with only scratches to his leg, and the troop moved elsewhere to spend the rest of the night, but the bear returned to investigate the scouts' belongings further. 

"A little after four in the morning was the final time it came, and I thought to take out my phone and take a video of it and I was trying to reach," said Scout Master Diana Nicols. "It was very close to reaching another hiker’s bear bag."

The bear was later euthanized by park officials, in accordance with state rules – something Ayers regrets. "I wish they didn’t euthanize it," he said. "It associated us with food. But we know that was our fault not the bear’s fault. It was just you know, being a bear."

Taking precautions

If you see a bear, whether or not it's noticed you, it's important to keep your distance and give the animal plenty of space. Don't be tempted to run; you might trigger its predatory instincts, and bears can easily outsprint humans. Instead, back away slowly, keeping the animal in sight. For more details, see our guide on what to do if you meet a bear.

It's particularly important to take care around wildlife right now, as many animals are raising young and exploring in search of food – and not just bears. A trail runner was injured by a cow moose last week after accidentally stumbling across her tending to her calf. The runner escaped serious harm and the trail was closed temporarily while wildlife officers assessed the area.

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).