A bear found napping in a basement sent authorities on a two-hour chase through Hopatcong's streets and woods Wednesday afternoon.
A state Division of Fish and Wildlife worker shot the bear with two tranquilizer darts before it took off from the home on 146 Madison Trail. A third dart was needed to bring down the burly creature, which several cops and residents eventually hauled into a mobile bear trap. The bear will be examined, tagged and released back into the wild.
Cablevision repair man Dave Cornine of Hopatcong was shocked to find the bear just before noon while preparing to fix 85-year-old Frank Annacone's service. Cornine said he dropped his tools and raced from the basement when he saw the bear.
"I didn't know what it was at first, but honestly, my first reaction was to run," Cornine said. "I threw my tools to the ground, I threw my light to the ground and I didn't know what to expect.
"I've encountered snakes, bats—all kinds of silly things. This was crazy."
Annacone said he had no clue a bear was living in his basement, which appeared open when Patch surveyed the home. He said he was glad the bear wasn't shot and would eventually be released.
"Why kill our wildlife?" Annacone said.
The sighting and chase drew dozens of onlookers, several police cars and media vans. Scott Pitonyak was one of those watching, and authorities eventually recruited him to drag the bear out of the woods.
"Heavy," Pitonyak said. "Like trying to pick up a car."
Joseph John Justin sprinted from his home with a handheld video camera after the bear stalked through his yard.
"I zoomed right out of my house," the 12-year Hopatcong resident said.
"It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. And it was nice seeing the people come together to try and cultivate his life as much as ours and show how valuable it is."