911 Call Reveals Bravery of 3 Boy Scouts During Bear Attack in NJ

PHOTO: A file photo of a black bear.PlayGetty Images/First Light
WATCH 911 Calls Show Bravery of Boy Scouts During Bear Attack

Newly released 911 audio tapes reveal the bravery, calm and quick-thinking of three Boy Scouts whose scoutmaster was attacked by a bear while they were hiking in New Jersey.

The young boys' 911 call made on Dec. 20 lasted about an hour and 20 minutes. The three scouts and their leader, Christopher Petronino, 50, had been hiking in Splitrock Reservoir in Rockaway Township, New Jersey, when the bear attacked Petronino in a cave they were exploring.

"I think the bear's on top of him," one scout can be heard telling the dispatch operator on a 911 audio tape.

At one point in the call, one of the scouts said, "If we don't make it out of this alive, I love you guys."

Despite the horror, the scouts were audibly calm as they answered the operator's questions and informed the operator what they were doing in real time, such as making a signal fire or putting food outside the mouth of the cave as bait for the bear.

Petronino also called 911 to give the dispatcher a better idea of his location.

"I'm sorry about this," he can be heard telling a dispatcher on a 911 tape. "He [the bear] pulled me into the cave."

Petronino said the bear "got me good" and that he was bleeding in the "left arm, left leg, neck and head."

After emergency services arrived, the scout leader was airlifted to a hospital with non-threatening injuries. The three children were uninjured, officials said.

At the hospital, Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers interviewed Petronino, who said he knew about the small Talus cave since the early 1980s, but had never encountered a bear.

Petronino said the black bear grabbed his foot and pulled him further into the cave, biting and scratching him. Petronino struck the bear twice in the head with a rock hammer. He then pulled his sweatshirt over his head and curled into the fetal position. He yelled to the scouts, who were outside the cave, to leave and go get help.

New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection said it was investigating the cause of the attack.

The growing bear population in New Jersey has led to an increasing number of close encounters between bears and people, and the state instituted an annual bear hunt in an attempt to reduce the number. This year, 501 bears were killed in the state's hunt, which is held in early December.

ABC News' Dean Schabner and Emily Knapp contributed to this report.