"Be Prepared" may be the motto for the Boy Scouts, but a 12-year-old from New York was anything but prepared for the encounter he had while on a recent camping trip -- one that saw his leg end up in the jaws of a black bear.
The uninvited guest was peaking around a campsite late at night at Harriman State Park in Rockland and Orange counties, in search of some human food, when it stumbled on a group of Boy Scouts from Cooperstown.
"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," said Henry Ayers.
The 12-year-old was sleeping under the stars with his buddies when the bear jolted everyone awake.
"It was absolutely crazy!" said Henry. "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."
Fortunately, Henry wasn’t seriously injured, save for a few scratches on his leg. The group headed over to a nearby shelter to sleep the rest of the night — but the bear wasn’t done. It came back hours later, still going for some food, even though the Scouts made sure to hang it all out of reach.
"A little after 4 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 group went on their scheduled hike the next day. Park officials later found the bear, and as per state rules, they they had to euthanize it.
"I wish they didn’t euthanize it," Henry 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."
Meanwhile, Henry has a story he’ll never forget — an important lesson about how humans should protect wildlife. He said he plans on going camping again very soon, at Boy Scout camp this summer.
"I am not scared of camping anymore! And I’m not scared of bears, its completely OK," he said.