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Summer of Bear Attacks Continues

Two boys, one 11 year-old from Brooklyn and a 12 year-old from Jersey City, New Jersey, were attacked by a young black bear while they were camping in New Jersey on Wednesday, August 3rd. This incident is the latest in several bear maulings that have occurred this summer. The attack happened just prior to daybreak in Stokes State Forest in the northwestern part of the state.

Larry Ragonese, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said, “Our best assumption is that the bear smelled food and went into the tent following the scent and encountered people and was a bit more aggressive than you would normally expect.” He went on to say that “more and more, bears are looking for food and they’ll break through sliding doors or windows.”

The boys were treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and were released after several hours to rejoin the other young people at the camp.

Series of Bear Attacks Around Country

In July, seven teens were attacked by a grizzly bear in Alaska while they were on a survival hike in a National Park. They were all able to escape fatal injuries. On the other hand, a hiker was killed in Yellowstone National Park by a female grizzly bear who had two cubs with her. Also last month, a woman in Arizona was killed by a male black bear who was rummaging through a dumpster at a country club.

Riel Peerbooms, executive director of the camp where the two young boys were attacked said that both campers and counselors are schooled in what to do should there be a bear attack. “They were trained to move away and to make a lot of noise,” he said. “During the incident, a counselor blew a whistle and the campers broke in song and clapped. The bear took off.”

This reaction may have saved the boys from more severe injuries. The young bear did run off, but he came back to look for food. He was then shot in the neck by a state conservation official. The wounded bear ran into the woods and is now being tracked by conservation workers. Hiking trails in the State Park were closed as were sections of the Appalachian Trail until they can find the bear.

The Legal Side

One decision families face after a wild animal attack is to investigate their legal options. Depending on the severity of the episode, emotional turmoil can sometimes cause families of attack victims to want to hold someone accountable for that attack. They may hope that they can find closure to a lamentable incident in their lives.

In the past, lawsuits that seek to hold someone or something accountable for wild animal attacks have not been too successful…until now. In a 2011 case, a family who lost their child to a bear attack in 2007 sued the U.S. Forest Service. The lawsuit claimed that in the time before the fatal attack, the Forest Service did not inform campers of an earlier bear attack. Both attacks took place at the same campsite and were perpetrated by the same bear. The family maintained that if they were notified of the prior attack and that an aggressive bear was in the area, that information would have made them make different choices that could have saved their child’s life.

The District Judge that heard the case decided that the U.S. Forest Service was partially negligent and awarded 1.9 million dollars to the family of the deceased child. While this decision could open the door for future lawsuits involving wild animal attacks, the judge also added restrictions. Claims resulting from these attacks can only be legitimate and sensible if the animal had attacked a second time in the same vicinity of the first and within 12 hours of the previous attack.

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