A man is being charged after pretending he was being attacked by bears to get a ride out of the woods, according to deputies. The individual from Brecksville, Ohio, was in Kanawha County, West Virginia, on September 22 when officers say he decided he'd rather not walk and he planned a way to get a free lift instead.
According to a criminal complaint from Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the man told dispatchers that he was injured, stuck on steep terrain, and being attacked by a bear. As local news station WOWK reports, dispatchers said Leonhardt begged for help, saying he had been walking for days and feared he was close to death. He then said he was being circled and stalked by more bears.
The black bear is West Virginia's state animal, and around 13,000 of the animals are spread throughout its 55 counties. They typically live in forested areas, but will venture closer to settlements in search of food.
According to the complaint, the man began to scream at one point, claiming to have suffered a head wound during the attack. He was advised to put pressure on the area while KCSO mounted a rescue effort, using lights and sirens to scare away any bears and working on procuring a helicopter.
Search crews found the man two hours later, KCSO said, but he declined medical treatment and confessed that he had made the whole bear attack up. According to first responders, he was not bleeding and had no visible injuries.
KCSO deputies said that the man told them he was 'very intoxicated' and apologized for wasting their time. He was arrested and is being charged with falsely reporting an emergency incident – a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
- What to do if you meet a bear: a guide to wildlife safety
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 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), usually wearing at least two sports watches.